Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss gained significant support across EU member states for progress in streamlining CAP audits at Agriculture talks yesterday.
Speaking at Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels, Ms Truss secured backing from 16 other countries for proposals to improve the current audit system which would benefit UK farmers by reducing the risk of penalties. Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan committed to carefully considering the UK proposals after the groundswell of support around the council table.
Elizabeth Truss also gained support for measures that would help farmers boost productivity including:
- improving the transparency of supply chains so that farmers can get earlier signals on price and demand to adapt their business models and target emerging opportunities - the Commission agreed to extend the successful EU Milk Market Observatory to beef and pigmeat which will give the industry access to the latest market data to help manage their business
- assisting farmers with their overheads by reducing the cost of fertilisers. Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan agreed to look into this proposal
- helping farmers access finance to invest in their businesses and boost their productivity and competiveness - the Commission agreed to prioritise engagement with the European Investment Bank to develop tools that could be made available to farmers
- an increased drive to open up new foreign export markets for British agriculture. The Commission committed to intensifying efforts to secure new market access
Elizabeth Truss said:
We have made 2016 the year of Great British Food and I want to capitalise on the growing interest in the provenance of high quality British produce. For example, for our dairy industry this means increasing manufacturing and processing investment in high-return products such as ice-cream, cheese and yoghurt. I know there are many dairy businesses in the UK that have great enthusiasm for adding value to the milk they produce.
The package put forward by the EU Commission will help British farmers become more productive and competitive. The widespread support within the council for action to help farmers with the audit system and fertilisers also demonstrated the will within the EU to back agriculture and I look forward to working closely with Commissioner Hogan on these ideas.
Inside a reformed European Union our farmers get the best of both worlds – not only do they have access to a tariff-free market of 500million consumers, but they also benefit from the collective effort of Europe to make the industry more competitive on the world stage and better able to manage price volatility.
At September’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council the UK secured £26 million of direct support for hard-pressed dairy farmers - the third largest allocation among all member states - that was promptly paid by the RPA to the industry across the whole UK.