Swedish Presidency Starts to Take Shape
The first Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of the Swedish Presidency took place in Brussels last month on 13 July. The main item on the agenda was a presentation of the Presidency’s work programme for the next six months, in which climate change is a prominent theme.
In relation to this, Ministers held an exchange of views on a recent Commission working paper on climate change adaptation in the agricultural sector in preparation for the informal meeting of agriculture ministers to be held in Växjö on 13-15 September. In addition, the Swedish Presidency has also subsequently published a discussion paper on 'Climate Change and Agriculture' intended to inform the debate at this meeting.
Climate change is 'at the very top of the Swedish Presidency's agenda'
Other issues discussed at the July Council meeting or which are due to be discussed in the coming months include:
- the economic situation in the EU dairy sector, which will be the main topic of discussion at the next formal Agriculture Council meeting on 7 September;
- the theme of the October Council meeting will be on the future of rural development policy within the CAP, building on the informal debates on the future of the CAP which took place during the French and Czech Presidencies; and
- proposals put forward by Denmark with the support from others on simplifying the CAP are due to be discussed at the November meeting.
Climate Change and Agriculture
Climate change is 'at the very top of the Swedish Presidency's agenda' and thus 'climate change and agriculture' has been chosen as the theme for the informal meeting of agriculture ministers in September. In preparation for this, Sweden hosted an exchange of views at the July Council meeting on a Commission working document on climate change adaptation in agriculture and rural areas. The document was published in April to accompany the Commission's White Paper on climate change adaptation.
This was the first time that Member States had discussed agriculture’s role in relation to climate change at a Council meeting (a). The main focus of discussions was on the management of water resources as an adaptation strategy to climate change, as well as the need to develop new disease resistant crop and livestock varieties with greater resilience to extreme weather events. Several Member States also reportedly raised the role of agriculture role in terms of climate change mitigation.
Following on from these discussions, the Swedish Presidency has since published a discussion document on 'climate change and agriculture' with reference to both mitigation and adaptation. The document, which states that 'agriculture can make an important contribution to meeting the challenge[s]' posed by climate change, is intended to form the basis for discussions in Växjö next month.
'...a post-Kyoto agreement in Copenhagen being of particular importance'
In particular, the document states that 'more knowledge about mitigation as well as action will be needed at EU, national and local level' with 'a post-Kyoto agreement in Copenhagen being of particular importance'. With reference to mitigation, the document suggests that greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from agriculture can be reduced through:
- changes to agricultural outputs (linked to consumer preferences);
- changes to production methods (linked to improved input/output ratios and and application of alternative technologies); and
- additional activities, which help to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (such as biofuels, and renewable energy).
In addition 'exchange of knowledge at farm level and between Member States plays an important role in facilitating adaptation to climate change'. Finally, the report concludes by stating that 'there are many important aspects of climate change, and the role of agriculture should not be underestimated'.
Market Situation in the EU Dairy Sector
On-going developments in the EU dairy sector, where adverse market conditionals remain a key concern for some Member States (b), were also discussed at the July Agriculture Council. In addition, a Commission report on the dairy market situation in 2009 was published subsequently on 22 July and will be the main item on the agenda at the next Council meeting on 7 September (replacing the meeting originally scheduled for 29 September).
A Commission proposal to extend the intervention buying in period for butter and skimmed milk powder from 31 August 2009 until 28 February 2010 was backed by nearly all Member States at the Council meeting, with the exception of the UK. The intervention buying in period for these products is usually only open between March and the end of August. The Commission intends to formally put the proposal to Ministers at the October Agriculture Council once the European Parliament has given its opinion. In the interim period, the Management Committee has since formally approved the proposals, thus opening the way for the Commission to invoke emergency powers to extend intervention from the end of August.
'...the Commission will not reverse decisions already taken on the quota system'
On 22 July, the Commission report published a report outlining a number of policy options intended alleviate the economic difficulties currently being experienced by the sector. A summary of the key points arising from the document are provided on the Commission's website:
- 'The Commission will continue to use instruments such as intervention, private storage aid and export refunds.
- It will allow direct payments to farmers to be paid early and has just launched a new round of dairy promotion programmes.
- Other potential measures include using levies on producers who exceed their quota to finance voluntary retirement from milk production, and the extension to farmers of the Temporary Crisis Framework for state aid.
- Member States also have the possibility to redistribute aid to the dairy sector under last year's Health Check agreement, while there are a number of possibilities to help milk farmers within Rural Development policy.
- The Commission is continuing its examination of potential anti-competitive practices in the food supply chain, especially the dairy sector.
- In line with the conclusions of the June European Council, the Commission will not reverse decisions already taken on the quota system'.
(a) The official minutes for the July meeting also contain links to national government climate policy websites in 15 Member States.
(b) For example, the French and German Agriculture Ministers have published a joint letter to Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel (dated 2 July), which expresses concern about the 'dairy crisis' and suggests that 'new forms of regulation' will be needed to address the negative market developments in the sector. More recently, Agriculture Ministers from eight Member States - Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia & Slovenia - have reportedly submitted a joint letter to Commissioner Boel (dated 31 July) in response to the Commission's report on the dairy market situation in 2009. The letter apparently welcomes the 'quick use of the different available market measures retained by the Health Check' but urges the Commission 'not to limit its ambition' when considering measures to address the current situation.
- Agra Facts (13/07/2009), Agriculture Council: Swedes to look at Climate Change adaptation.
- Agra Facts (07/08/09), Joint letter from eight EU Farm Ministers on dairy sector to Fischer Boel
- COM(2009) 147 Commission Staff Working Document, Adapting to climate change: the challenge for European agriculture and rural areas.
- COM(2009) 385 Commission Communication, Report on the dairy market situation 2009
- Council Press Release (13/07/2009), 2956th Council meeting Agriculture and Fisheries, Brussels.
- DG Agri press release (24/07/09) Agreement on further measures to stabilise dairy market
- SEC(2009) 1093 Commission Staff Working Document, The role of European agriculture in climate change mitigation
- Swedish Presidency discussion document (23/07/09) 'Climate Change and Agriculture'
10 Aug 2009
The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.
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