The UK will receive just over €36m (£26.5m) from a Brussels support package to ease the cashflow crisis on Europe’s farms.
European farm commissioner Phil Hogan confirmed the amount each of 28 EU member states will receive from the €420m (£308m) package on Tuesday (15 September).
“This is a comprehensive, decisive and robust support package,” he told an informal farm council meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Luxembourg.
“It is a significant statement of support by the commission for European agriculture.”
The UK was allocated €36.07m in direct aid, the third largest amount of all the member states, behind Germany’s €69.2m (£50.9m) and France’s €62.9m (£46.2m).
Mr Hogan said the commission had allocated the money in a fair, targeted and effective way to address problems in the dairy and pigmeat sectors.
Urging ministers to look at the support measures as a whole, he said Brussels would allow member states maximum flexibility in targeting the aid.
“You are best placed to identify and address the specific needs and challenges of your farmers,” he said. “I trust that this will be a big help to many of you.”
Other measures include plans for a relaxation of rules so member states can pay up to 70% of this year’s direct payments to farmers six weeks early from 16 October, said Mr Hogan.
“I will now propose that member states may pay 70% of advances after the administrative controls have been completed and without the need to complete the on-the-spot checks.”
Brussels will also take products off the market using private storage aid (PSA) schemes for dairy and pigmeat and the possibility of advancing direct payments.
In response to requests by member states, Mr Hogan said he had decided to increase the aid rate for skimmed milk powder by over 100% and fix the storage period for a year.
Meanwhile, a new PSA scheme for cheese will provide for a total amount of 100,000t to be broken down by member states based on their respective cheese production.
A PSA for pigmeat will be extended to fresh lard, responding to proposals that some of the so-called “fifth-quarter cuts” should be included.
Mr Hogan said he was prepared to consider allowing member states to provide complementary national aid in addition to the measures announced by Brussels.
“My services are available to engage with interested member states in relation to the details of such a measure, including the level of national aid which can be provided.”
Defra said the package recognised calls from UK ministers for Brussels to provide support for farmers suffering from cashflow problems as a result of ongoing low prices in the global market.
Defra minister George Eustice said: “We are now seeking more detail from the commission to allow this money to be distributed as simply and quickly as possible.”
Mr Eustice said the money would go some way towards helping farmers deal with serious cashflow problems – but he did not say whether the UK would grant additional aid to farmers itself.
“We recognise that many farmers are suffering financial difficulty at the moment and have been pushing the EU to agree a package of support,” said Mr Eustice.
“The support announced today will offer some relief to the immediate problems farmers face.”
While right that the immediate focus was on support for farmers’ cashflow problems, Mr Eustice said it was equally important that other elements of the package were not overlooked.
“Developing futures trading will help farmers manage volatility and we will continue to push the commission to make rapid progress,” he said.
Mr Eustice said Defra would be speaking to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about distribution of the direct aid across the UK.