Ministers debate early subsidies for suffering farmers

European farm ministers will debate next week letting countries make direct subsidy payments early to help producers’ suffering low prices.

They will consider if national governments can use “all the flexibility available” to bring forward payments from December to the autumn.

Politicians will also debate ringfencing superlevy dairy fines for emergency farmer support and raising the prices where intervention buying kicks in.

See also: £500m loan pot created for farmers facing late BPS payments

The ideas come from a briefing circulated ahead of a crisis meeting of the EU agriculture council on 7 September.

On the same day, thousands of European farmers are planning to descend on Brussels in protest.

In the briefing, the Luxembourg presidency of the farm council said the market situation was now critical.

“The slump in prices reflecting a supply-demand gap in certain sectors has hit hard on the European farmers putting severe pressure on farm incomes,” the note said.

The European Commission has consistently turned down requests to go beyond the current crisis measures set out in the CAP.

Last week the EU agricultural markets committee extended dairy support through private storage aid – where companies are paid to keep products in store – and intervention buying.

But farm commissioner Phil Hogan has repeatedly refused to raise intervention price levels for butter and skim milk powder.

And private storage for pigmeat only ran for seven weeks this spring.

Speaking at a press conference last week, Mr Hogan said some policy announcements could be made on 7 September.

He said some would be short-term measures, while other actions would address future problems.

But he did not want to challenge the market-driven focus of the CAP, which was moving away from price and supply management.

“I fully support the market-orientated direction,” Mr Hogan said. “We have to ensure that we do not take measures in response to the current situation that will compromise the market orientation of our policy.”

Ahead of the Brussels protest, dairy farm leaders have attacked the EU’s strategy as “misguided”.

The European Milk Board has called an end to the export push and a market responsibility programme that would pay farmers to cut back production.