CAP deal unlikely before weekend

23 February 1999

CAP deal ‘unlikely before weekend’

By FWi staff

BRUSSELS – Agreement on European agricultural reform appears unlikely before the weekend as farm ministers struggle to find common ground after two days of talks.

European Commission proposals aimed at securing an early agreement between the 15 European Union (EU) countries have so far failed to impress.

“Member states have not budged an inch from their starting positions,” said a commission spokesman.

The commissions new proposals would push up the cost of CAP reform by a further Euro90 million (£62m) and are likely to be rejected by EU finance ministers even if acceptable to farm ministers.

The proposals would increase suckler cow quota for Austria, Finland and Sweden, and boost regional ceilings for beef special premiums for Spain and Portugal.

They would also retain intervention instead of private storage aids as a safety net for beef producers.

Extensification premiums

But the most significant proposal is to the extensification premiums.

The German presidency is now suggesting a starting point of two livestock units per hectare, compared with the 1.4 livestock units per hectare as made in the commissions original proposal.

This has come as a relief to the Irish, who would otherwise have lost out.

With heifers and sheep included in the calculation of stocking rates, over half the farmers who currently qualify for extensification premium would have been ineligible.

Under the milk regime, there are even fewer changes.

The latest draft has reduced the amount of extra quota for mountain areas from 1% to 0.5%, but paves the way for an additional as yet unspecified amount of quota to go to Italy, Spain and Greece.

Brown demands radical reform

UK agriculture minister Nick Brown said he remains committed to more radical reform of the dairy sector, and pledged to stay in Brussels until a deal was done.

There are suspicions, however, that by offering more quota to Italy, Spain and Greece, the Germans are trying to weaken the resolve of the Mediterranean countries to support the UK position.

As for arable reform, the only new proposal in circulation is to reduce oilseeds area aid to the same level as cereals in three annual steps instead of one.

While this will get some support, it will not overcome the problems of the Blair House agreement for three years.

Producers would still face penalties for over-planting, as well as receiving progressively reduced area payments.

But the lack of progress so far means a new compromise paper due tomorrow is likely to see a more radical departure from the commissions original Agenda 2000 proposals.

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