asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what were the main decisions on agriculture and food taken within the European Community during the United Kingdom Presidency.
The Community has taken some important measures during the United Kingdom Presidency, with the aim of restoring a better balance in the markets for some agricultural products or of improving the basic structure of support.The milk action programme, which had been under discussion for some time, has now been adopted and is being acted on. It includes an attack on overproduction through a scheme of incentives to Community dairy farmers to give up milk production or to switch to beef or sheep production; using herd reductions to best advantage by new Community aid for accelerated programmes for eradicating brucellosis, tuberculosis and bovine leukosis; helping consumption through new Community aid for school milk schemes, improved aid for butter consumption by the Community's own consumers including a specially favourable scheme for the United Kingdom and better arrangements for disposal of skimmed milk and skimmed milk powder for animal feed within the Community. The proposals for a margarine tax, a ban on aid for investment on farms and the exclusive use of milk products in certain foodstuffs were abandoned or deferred.For cereals the reformed support system has been finally accepted and will come into effect on 1st August; support for breadmaking wheat will no longer be always given by automatic intervention but by a more flexible reference price system and the support levels for feed grains have been brought into a better relationship.The negotiations on the arrangements and price for sugar imports from ACP countries in 1977–78 were satisfactorily concluded. In view of the prospect of surplus the Council has announced that, if the present market prospects continue, the maximum sugar quota for Community producers will be reduced from the 1978–79 marketing year.The system of slaughter premiums for beef has been continued.Important changes have been made in the basic regulation for hops, in order to restrain over-production and to improve marketing through producer groups. It has been agreed that under the amended regulation Community aid in the United Kingdom will be paid through the Hops Marketing Board.Agreement has also been reached in principle on some changes in the basic regulation on wine.In April agreement was reached on Community agricultural support prices for 1977–78. In view of the importance of counter-inflation programmes in many member States and the need to maintain a balance between supply and demand in product markets, the increase in common support prices, about 3·5 per cent. on average, was the lowest since United Kingdom accession.In the structural field a new regulation, which will make available aid from Community funds for programmes of investment or improvement in the processing and marketing of agricultural products was adopted.Considerable progress has been made in seeking agreement within the Community that priority within the food harmonisation programme should be given to those horizontal measures, such as the draft directive on labelling, which can give real benefits to traders and consumers.In the field of animal health and welfare a new directive on pure bred cattle, which will help to eliminate barriers to trade, has been agreed in principle. We have also made substantial progress on the directive on the welfare of animals in international transport, which will provide valuable safeguards in Community law.