Brussels prepares for 70% SFP advance

EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has agreed to allow up to 70% advances for this year’s single farm payments, and promised to take further steps to support the EU dairy market.

The announcements were made on Monday (25 May) as hundreds of European milk producers demonstrated outside the EU Council building in Brussels to vent their anger at lower prices and falling incomes.

As part of a range of measures to deal with the crisis, Mrs Fischer Boel revealed that she would allow all farmers in the EU to receive up to 70% of their SFP payments from 16 October, rather than having to wait until December.

“Dairy farmers, but also many other farmers in all 27 member states, are facing serious financial and cash flow difficulties as a result of low agricultural prices and high input cists,” she said. “I have decided to do as much as possible to alleviate these difficulties.”

The move has been welcomed by UK farm unions, though doubts remain as to whether the various regional administrations will be able to actually deliver an advance payment.

NFU head of economics and international affairs Tom Hind said that while DEFRA had managed to get early payments out in the past under the old livestock headage schemes, the RPA’s track record suggested English farmers should not get their hopes up.

NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren also warned that the Scottish government might not be able to deliver. Last autumn it had turned down a request for early delivery of LFA payments on the grounds it would delay the payment of SFPs.

“We now need reassurances from the Scottish government that they can be lighter on their feet, like other EU countries, when it comes to delivering support,” he said.