18 April 1997

Assess the impacts before reforming quotas – COPA

By Amanda Cheesley

EUROPEAN farmers group, COPA, has rejected calls to tighten quota restrictions – just one of the options being considered for policy reform by Brussels managers.

The full proposals are expected to be announced in July, in the so-called "Santer" package. An initial report into the dairy, beef and cereals markets is due next week.

Stressing that any reform of the dairy regime must be gradual; COPA favours maintaining a supply management system until beyond 2000.

And it demands an "impact assessment" into the effects of easing restrictions (ie increasing quotas) to allow farmers to better exploit the market.

COPA also stresses that more flexibility in quota transfers is needed and, if dairy support prices are cut, farmers must be given direct and permanent income aid.

Any further constraints which lead to higher costs for farmers – such as higher environmental standards – must be taken into account when drawing up reform proposals. And an improvement in the commissions dairy export management is a matter of urgency.

Meanwhile, this years price package has been rejected by farm leaders in Brussels, who said there must be a rollover of current support to prepare for future CAP reform.

In particular, they rejected commission plans to slash arable aids by 7.2%, something which will be considered at the same time as the price package.