By Farmers Weekly staff

EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler presented his plans for an industry-funded scheme to stabilise pig producer incomes to member states farm ministers in Luxembourg this week.

Under the initiative, pig producers would be allowed to contribute to an authorised fund by means of a voluntary levy during times of relative prosperity.

Money built up in this way would then be available to supplement low pig prices in times of adversity.

The scheme would be voluntary, but once signed up pig producers would have to stick with the fund for at least five years.

They would also have to declare the number of pigs fattened in the base year and agree not to increase that number during the life of the fund.

Member states could make grants to help with the start-up cost and the cash could also be supplemented with commercial loans.

Dr Fischler stressed he did not want to do away with all that had been achieved by operating an open market policy for so many years, but said the fund would be a useful tool for stabilising returns.

But, even though there was no debate in the council, the plan is likely to come in for some hefty criticism in the months ahead.

“We have two main objections,” said Jacob Hansen of the Danish Council of Agriculture.

“First, the free market has worked well enough over the long-term. Second, it provides tremendous scope for member states to do their own thing, leading to distortions in the market.”

Damien Phillips of the NFU agreed. “This amounts to a legalised state aid,” he said.

“Other member states will apply it to the full and UK producers will be discriminated against.”