Politics & Economics

EU ministers striving to find more support for farmers against catastrophies

May 2024
By Editorial Staff

The simplification of certain conditionalities enshrined in CAP Strategic Plans approved on the 13th of May “does not mean that our action is to stop”. After the discussion with the 27 EU ministers, the Belgian minister for Agriculture David Clarinval, stressed the need to intensify the support for European farmers in crisis prevention and resolution.

The call for increasing the funding in the crisis reserve is mounting among Member States in the Council, since “these situations in the agricultural sector are likely to intensify rather than fade away”, as the European Commissioner for Financial Services, Mairead McGuinness stated during the end-of-meeting press conference

Member States are advocating for increasing the “de minimis” ceiling to 50 thousand euros, being thus allowed to allocate small amounts of public subsidies to companies without needing the consent of the European Commission as required by the Competition regulation. The maximum amount of small-scale subsidies that can be granted to an individual company in the agriculture and fisheries sector is capped at the moment between 20 and 30 thousand euros, over three years. 

The focus is especially on marketable risks and catastrophic risks. As defined by OECD (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), these are respectively defined as risks too large for individual management that can be shared across a larger group of people (e.g. insurance against weather events, price volatility, mutual assistance funds for certain diseases) and risks so significant that (insurers or) markets cannot cover them at a reasonable price (e.g. severe floods, earthquakes, diseases that threaten entire populations of livestock). 

Member States are calling for further flexibility on the use of EU funds for the management of this crisis. As regards the strengthening of the position of European farmers in the food supply chain ministers exchanged additional views on mechanisms providing them with a fairer income. They especially focused on the setting up of an EU agrifood chain observatory and the upcoming proposal on rules for the cross-border application of the unfair trade practices (UPT) directive, or the limited extension of the state aid temporary crisis and transition framework to allow for continued support for the primary agricultural sector given the persisting market disturbances.

The approval of the regulation on new genomic techniques proposed by the European Commission in July 2023 has remained an open issue. The main hurdle for the lack of a qualified majority in the Council is attributable to the need for more guarantees for the use of patents. Some countries are concerned that countries that are progressing in the research sector could have a competitive advantage in the use of plant varieties obtained with changes that might also occur in nature or through conventional breeding. The goal of the Belgian presidency is to reach a political agreement by the end of June before handing over the lead of the work in the EU Council to Hungary.

EU Agriculture minister was also called to formally vote on the agreements reached with the European Parliament on the Net Zero Industry Act. The regulation will enter into force the same day of its publication in the Official Journal after being signed by the presidencies of the two institutions. The law is grounded on the need to simplify the permit-granting process for strategic projects related to the manufacturing of solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, batteries and heat pumps. 

The final green light to the ecodesign directive will expand the scope of the EU legislation beyond energy-related products to introduce requirements such as product durability, reparability, environmental footprint and the presence of harmful chemical substances. This will primarily concern highly environmentally harmful products such as iron, steel, aluminium, textiles, tyres, detergents and chemicals. A ban has been introduced on the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear products to push the “fast fashion” industry to change. The rules will apply from 24 months after the entry into force. 

The following week will probably guide to the moment of truth on the adoption by the EU Council of the proposed decision on the change of the status protection of wolves in the European Union. The recolonization of big carnivores due to alarming extinction in the last decades is considered by many Member States as a threat to livestock and tourism in mountain areas.

The EU legislation is aligned with the Bern Convention, and the Council is required to adopt a position before the 44th meeting of the Standing committee taking place next December. The qualified majority among Agriculture ministers backing a weakening of the status protection for wolves does not seem to be duplicated in the Environment Council which is called to decide on the matter. As the Belgian presidency revealed, no main progress has been marked in the preparatory working party dealing with the issue in the EU Council.