Agricultural co-ops warn EU about risks facing farmers

Ministers are meeting to discuss the Common Agricultural policy – and Copa and Cogeca say it needs to be made stronger and more competitive

As EU farm ministers discuss the future of the Common Agricultural Policy, European agricultural co-operatives are warning that more measures are needed to help farmers manage risks.

Copa and Cogeca, the organisations representing European farmers and agricultural co-operatives, highlighted what they thought were key steps in ensuring a better management of risks.

Addressing a meeting of EU farm ministers in Tallinn, Cogeca president Thomas Magnusson said he welcomed the Estonian presidency’s priorities to make progress on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) over the next 6 months.

Mr Magnusson, who runs a mixed dairy and forestry farm, said: “Farmer’s incomes are currently at 40% of average earnings and they are suffering from increasing challenges like adverse weather events and increased market fluctuations. They will also have to produce a lot more food in the future to feed a growing population using fewer resources. We, therefore, need a strong and competitive CAP in the future with simpler, common rules and adequate funding to help farmers and their co-operatives to meet these challenges.”

He also called for maintaining the direct payments granted under the first pillar of the CAP, which, he said, helped farmers and co-operatives to better manage risks.

“Market safety nets must also be kept and further developed. Convergence and harmonisation of direct payments under the CAP must continue. Focus also needs to be put on measures to help farmers better manage market risks with the development of future markets to cope with the increasing market volatility.

“The risk management measures must remain voluntary for producers to apply and remain in the second pillar of the CAP. In this respect,agricultural co-operatives can and do play an important role in managing market risks for their members as well as helping them have a better position in the food chain. EU studies show that agri co-operatives help farmers to get a better price for their produce. For that reason, we need to encourage the development of agricultural co-operatives,” added Mr Magnusson.

He concluded by rejecting a suggestion included in the EU Commission Reflections Paper on the future of EU finances post-2020 to introduce national co-funding for direct payments under the first pillar of the CAP, warning that it risks re-nationalising the CAP.