EU readies second dairy crisis fund, worth £250m

The EU will unveil a second multimillion-euro shot of emergency aid for dairy farmers next week.

Farm commissioner Phil Hogan is expected to reveal the plans at Monday’s (18 July) council of agriculture ministers.

The exact size of the package has not been announced, as the commission is deciding where the money will come from.

But the aid could total more than €300m (£250m), according to Brussels news agency Agra Facts.

See also: EU plans more emergency aid for milk producers

Last September, in the wake of major protests, the EU offered up €500m (£417m) to help struggling dairy, pig and beef producers.

Of that, €420m (£350m) went towards targeted aid, with the UK getting a £26.2m share – about 7%.

It is impossible to say how much British farmers would get from the latest package, as the kind of aid has not been announced.

On current expectations, most of the money will go towards similar targeted aid, which means cash payments for producers, but this time with more strings attached.

These could be linked to cutting back production or helping farmers leave the sector.

Set criteria

Mansel Raymond, west Wales dairy farmer and chairman of European farm union umbrella organisation Copa-Cogeca’s milk working party, told Farmers Weekly nothing had been fixed.

“Nobody knows what is going to come out,” he said.

“I have been told it will not be quite as open-ended as the last one. There will be set criteria.”

Last autumn, English dairy farmers received £15.5m in total from the EU, with their share linked to production, which worked out to an average of £1,820 each.

Farm ministers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales could choose how to spend their allocation.

Emergency measures

Other EU emergency measures included an extension of the intervention buying and private storage schemes, which helped to take milk supplies off the market.

Mr Hogan this spring also activated Article 222, which allowed farmer groups to co-ordinate to cut production.

The option has not proved popular, with few producers outside of Spain and Portugal taking advantage.

EU production

Milk output is now easing back, with total EU production up just 1.6% in April compared with the year before. The UK is now well down on 2015 levels, running 9-10% back on a fortnightly basis.

Different European nations are divided about what kind of emergency tools should be introduced, with some countries still pushing ahead with ambitious growth plans.

The European Milk Board (EMB) has said new restraints should be introduced, with incentives for farmers who wish to cut back milk production and temporary caps on expansion for others.

EMB president Romuald Schaber said an effective outcome needed to emerge from Monday’s meeting.

“We cannot allow our incompetent EU politicians to destroy our milk production in Europe. That’s it: there must be no more wishy-washy decisions.”