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Agriculture Ministers Discuss Practical Details of Proposals to Adjust Common Agricultural Policy

At the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council chaired, for the Slovenian Presidency, by Iztok Jarc, the Ministers discussed the key priorities and issues that need to be resolved in discussions on the review of the CAP. Member States for the most part expressed their support for simplification of the single payment scheme (SPS) and further reduction of production-related support, preservation of a ‘safety net’, and a gradual increase in milk quotas. The key issues remain the modulation and determination of the upper and lower limit of direct payments.

“The Member States are united in the view that simplification of SPS is required urgently; they also gave wide support to the option of changing the existing SPS models with a view to making payment more uniform,” said Mr Jarc. The Member States pointed out that, in terms of simplification of SPS, decisions on a gradual transition should be left to the Member States. The proposal to reduce the scope of production-related supports also received support in principle, with Member States pointing out the sensitivity of certain sectors and calling for caution in making changes.

With a view to price market instruments, Mr Jarc stressed that it is “important that there is general support for maintaining a ‘safety net’ in case of excessive falls in prices of agricultural products.” The majority of Member States agree with the European Commission assessment that appropriate measures to deal with low prices have already been established; some Member States, however, favour the introduction of additional instruments.  On intervention measures, some Member States are generally in favour of eliminating them, while others are undecided.

In the context of adjustment to new challenges, the majority of the Member States agree that a review of existing measures should first be carried out, especially in relation to rural development. The introduction of new measures inevitably raises the issue of sources of funding. With regard to production risks, several Member States consider that there are already appropriate measures in place in the context of rural development and State aid. Certain Member States believe that future risk management should be left to private initiative.

The modulation and determination of the upper limit of direct payments, which the Member States consider is not an appropriate answer to the equality issue, continue to be the most sensitive issues. Some Member States support the Commission approach on modulation, but nevertheless propose changing the classification criteria. Others, that do not agree with increasing the modulation, for the most part suggest using the leftover CAP resources as a source for obtaining additional funds.

“The majority of Member States do not oppose the elimination of the milk quota system in 2015. In addition to a gradual increase of quotas, introducing measures for vulnerable areas where elimination of quotas would further threaten milk production – and thus the existence of agriculture in these areas – is important for the ‘soft agreement’ of the sector,” emphasised chairman Mr Jarc.

As a possible solution, Member States welcomed the expansion of Article 69, under which a part of diary production could still receive support. In addition, they also suggested reducing levies in the event of quotas being exceeded and reducing the fat correction level.

Discussion of the dossier will continue in the Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA) with a view to formulating Council conclusions that the Presidency will submit to the Ministers for adoption at the EU Council meeting in March.


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Date: 22.02.2008