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Written Statement - Attendance at EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council (Brussels 7th September 2015)

Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food

I attended an extraordinary European Union (EU) Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on Monday 7th September as part of the UK Ministerial Delegation.

The meeting was convened to discuss current difficulties facing the farming sector in relation to world markets. Farmers across the EU are facing testing times as surplus production, lower global demand, intense competition in the supply chain and the ongoing Russian import ban have led to lower commodity and farm gate prices. The strength of feeling was evident in Brussels as several thousand farmers from all over Europe took part in protests near the Council building.

Prior to the Council I discussed the situation in Wales with NFU Cymru President, Stephen James before participating in a wider meeting of all four UK agriculture ministers and leading representatives of the U.K farming unions. We discussed how we could work together within the UK on issues such as better product labelling, purchasing and supply chain pressures.

At the pre-Council briefing with UK delegation colleagues I set out issues important for Welsh farming. I emphasised that market difficulties were not limited to the dairy sector: red meat producers and particularly the sheep sector faced an extremely challenging situation too.  Secretary of State, Liz Truss, Scottish Government Minister for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead MSP, Food and Environment, Northern Ireland Executive Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs Michelle O’Neill MLA and Lord Gardiner of Kimble were present.

In the Council meeting the European Commission, Vice President, Jyrki Katainen, standing in for Commissioner Hogan who was ill, presented a €500m package of support aimed at easing immediate cash flow difficulties for farmers, with direct targeted aid for all Member States.  

Further measures such as a new temporary storage scheme for dairy protein products, increased funding for the promotion of agricultural products, work to address trade barriers, the pursuit of new markets, and an enhanced role for the Milk Market Observatory, were intended to stabilise the markets.

The Commission also intends to establish a high level group to consider solutions to supply chain issues such as credit for farmers, the creation of a futures market and measures to tackle unfair trading practices.

The Welsh Government broadly supports these measures but looks forward to seeing the detail on how these measures will operate in practice and how targeted aid will be distributed to and within Member States.  

I will continue to work with industry stakeholders, farming ministers across the UK and with the European Institutions to progress this work as urgently as possible.