European Commission plans more help for drought-stricken farmers


The European Commission is standing by Europe's farmers this summer, as they grapple with the difficulties of extreme droughts with an additional package of support measures to help mitigate the ongoing challenges. The European Commission has come up with more actions aimed at increasing the availability of fodder resources for livestock which is one of the main challenges faced by farmers dealing with the impact of drought. This package complements the measures announced last month and comes as farmers all over Europe are affected by drought this summer.

“The Commission reacted swiftly to the first signals of these extreme climatic events and I keep following the situation closely,” says Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan. “I am in contact with ministers from affected member states as we are assessing the adequacy of the actions already in place.”

“We are taking additional action which I believe should provide relief to European farmers against the shortage of feed for animals. I welcome the recent announcements by several member states ready to act for their agricultural sector and I will continue working with them to ensure they use to the full extent the possibilities available, most notably within the Common Agricultural Policy."

More specifically, the new derogations presented are concerned with certain greening rules:
- Possibility to consider winter crops which are normally sown in autumn for harvesting/grazing as catch crops (prohibited under current regulations) if intended for grazing/fodder production;
- Possibility of sowing catch crops as pure crops (and not a mixture of crops as currently prescribed) if intended for grazing/fodder production;
- Possibility to shorten the eight-weeks minimum period for catch crops to allow arable farmers to sow their winter crops in a timely manner after their catch crops;
- Extension of the previously adopted derogation to cut/graze fallow land to France.

The proposal on higher advanced payments, already announced a few weeks ago, has also now been formally presented. Farmers will be able to receive up to 70 percent of their direct payment and 85 percent of payments under rural development already as of mid-October 2018 instead of waiting until December to improve their cash flow situation.

These proposals come in addition to the provisions already available for such circumstances. In all cases, the Commission ensures that all these measures are implemented in a proportionate way taking into account environmental concerns.

For example, under existing state aid rules, aid of up to 80 percent of the damage caused by drought (or up to 90 percent in Areas of Natural Constraint) can be provided, subject to certain specific conditions.

The purchase of fodder can qualify for aid as either material damage or income loss. Compensation for damage can also be granted without the need to notify the Commission (the so-called "de minimis aid") with amounts up to €15,000 (US$17,410) per farmer over three years.

Relief possibilities also exist under rural development, including the financing of re-seeding of pastures for example or compensation for loss of income.

These new proposals have been submitted to member states gathered in a Committee meeting and will be voted on in the coming days and formally adopted by the end of September. The measures will apply retroactively.

Last month, FoodIngredientsFirst reported on the potential impact that the drought in many regions of the European Union and Eastern Europe was having, with significant damage to wheat, maize and barley crops.


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