18 June 2001
Animal health set to dominate EU meeting

By Philip Clarke, Europe Editor

ANIMAL health matters will dominate the meeting of EU farm ministers on Tuesday (19 June) in Luxembourg.

High up the agenda will be the EU-wide meat and bonemeal ban, which runs out at the end of the month. Ministers have already agreed to an extension.

But, while the commission has proposed an open-ended roll over, several member states, led by France and Germany, are now demanding a permanent ban.

The UK is also unhappy. The wording is not positive enough about lifting the ban on fishmeal for ruminants, said a Brussels-based official.

There is no scientific justification for this.

The problem is, to reject the current proposal now requires a qualified majority of 71% against.

It seems unlikely this will be achieved, and the commissions plan will go through unchanged.

New laws on the use of animal by-products should also be decided on.

The commission plan is to only allow raw materials in animal feed that would have been fit for human consumption.

Some member states hope to get pig swill banned under this legislation, but Germany and Austria, which have invested heavily in processing, oppose this.

Ministers are also expected to finalise new rules for banning stalls and tethers in EU pig production, though not until 2012.

The UK and the Netherlands want the new rules in place sooner, while Spain and Portugal dont want them at all.

Of the non-animal welfare items, most debate is expected around farm commissioner Franz Fischlers seven point plan for re-balancing EU beef markets.

The use of organic set-aside for growing legumes and the introduction of the special purchase scheme for over-30-month animals, have already been agreed.

Mr Fischler is keen to push through the other aspects — including raising intervention ceilings, introducing individual beef quotas and lowering stocking rates for extensification payments.

But, with beef markets recovering well from last years BSE crisis, most member states want to delay changes until next years mid-term review of Agenda 2000.

Finally, ministers are expected to approve a package aimed at simplifying the administration of farm subsidies.

The plan suggests any farmer who gets less than 1250 euros (762) a year in aid should only have to fill out one claim form.

This would benefit 15% of UK farmers.

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