I will be representing the United Kingdom at this month’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels. The Welsh Environment, Planning and Countryside Minister, Carwyn Jones, will also attend.
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the Commission communication on “Employment in rural areas”.
The Council will hold a policy debate on a linked pair of proposals on the common organisation of the market in cereals aimed principally at dealing with the large increase in intervention purchasing of maize: one proposal will deliver extra short-term cash to compensate for high interest charges; the other will seek to overcome the problem by allowing the market to operate freely and abolish the intervention for maize.
The presidency will seek political agreement on the Commission’s proposal laying down rules for voluntary modulation in light of the December 2005 European Council future financing agreement for 2007-13. The proposal sets out the terms by which member states can voluntarily modulate from pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy (direct payments) to pillar 2 (rural development). It is hoped that agreement will be reached on voluntary modulation.
There will be a policy debate on the Commission proposal on the common organisation of agricultural markets and agricultural products, based on a presidency questionnaire. The proposal aims to consolidate the existing 21 sector-specific Common Market Organisations into a single regulation, in an effort to streamline and simplify the legal framework.
A number of issues, as follows, will be raised under ‘any other business’:
The Environment Commissioner will give an update on, the impact the proposed strategy on soil protection would have on agriculture and the need to grant member states further subsidiarity discussed at the January Council.
There will then be written updates from the health and consumer protection Commissioner on avian influenza and the EC-Russian Federation veterinary agreement negotiations.
The presidency will update the Council on the outcomes of two recent conferences: “Fuelling the Future—Renewable Resources” and “Prevention for Health—Nutrition and Physical Activity—A Key to Healthy Living”.
The Agriculture Commissioner will then give an update on the WTO agricultural negotiations.
Over lunch, Ministers and the Commission will share experiences gained from the implementation of controls in food chains and discuss ways to further improve these control measures.