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Agriculture Council

Volume 264: debated on Wednesday 18 October 1995

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 25 September and if he will make a statement. [38030]

At this meeting, the Council set the rate of rotational set-aside for arable crops to be harvested in 1996 at 10 per cent. It also set the rate for non-rotational set-aside at the same level. This compares with 1995 rates of 12 per cent. and 17 per cent.-12 per cent. and 15 per cent. in the United Kingdom—for the two types of set-aside respectively. The decision was taken by qualified majority vote, with Portugal voting against.

The decision is a good compromise between the aim of ensuring adequate supplies and avoiding a renewed build up of stocks with a risk of increased budgetary costs. A single set-aside rate will make the scheme simpler for farmers which I welcome as wholly in keeping with my desire for greater deregulation.

At my insistence, the Commission has promised, for the current marketing year as well as for 1996–97, to manage the market so as to ensure that cereals market prices are consistent with the aims of the 1992 reforms, and that priority in supply is given to consumers within the European Union in particular livestock farmers. I intend to make sure this undertaking is properly fulfilled.

The Council also adopted a directive which will impose licensing and registration arrangements on manufacturers and users of a range of non-medicinal additives in animal feed. I voted against, on the grounds that no adequate justification has been given, in terms of risk to animal or human health, for introducing these requirements.

The Council had an initial exchange of views on the Commission's proposals for changes to the support system for rice.

The meeting was joined for part of the time by nine Ministers of Agriculture from the countries of central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic states. These Ministers explained the aims of their existing agriculture policies and their expectations for the development of their farm sectors, as well as their views on the common agricultural policy in the light of their hopes for the eventual accession of their countries to the European Union.