I represented the United Kingdom for the agricultural items at this month’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg. The Minister with responsibility for marine, landscape and rural affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw), represented the UK for fisheries items. The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, also attended.
The Council adopted a decision authorising Romania to grant national aid to its farmers to assist with the aftermath of recent drought conditions.
The Council reached political agreement on a proposal amending the common agricultural policy financing rules by making it compulsory for member states to publish data on CAP payment beneficiaries; extending Commission powers to suspend or reduce payments under certain conditions; and providing the Commission with an additional 12 months to carry out certain controls on CAP expenditure.
The Council also reached agreement on fishing quotas for the Baltic sea for 2008, despite troubled experiences in Baltic sea fisheries this year.
The Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner presented the Commission communication on the new EU Animal Health Strategy for 2007-13.
The Council held a discussion, based on a presidency questionnaire, on the Commission’s proposal on the reform of the EU wine sector. The discussion covered: the proposed national envelopes; the possible use of national envelope money to fund decoupled payments under the single payment scheme; and the scope of the proposed grubbing-up scheme. I intervened to support the principle of national envelopes, but argued that a greater proportion of funding should be used for rural development measures to help producers adapt to the reform. I also intervened to support the use of national envelope money to enhance payments under the SPS and the proposed voluntary grubbing-up scheme that will provide a dignified way out for those farmers most affected by the greater market orientation of the wine sector following the reform.
The Council held an exchange of views on the EU/Norway fisheries agreement for 2008. The UK sought to set responsible levels of fishing while also maintaining the economic viability of the EU fleets involved.
A number of issues, as follows, were raised under any other business:
Spain expressed concerns at the closure of the bluefin tuna fishery as a consequence of overfishing of national allocations by some member states.
Poland called for the introduction of relief measures to alleviate difficulties in the pigmeat sector. The Agriculture Commissioner reported that the Pigmeat Management Committee on 18 October had indeed adopted a proposal to introduce private storage aid from 29 October; as regards export refunds, the Commission did not think that these would be appropriate to address the difficulties faced in the pigmeat sector, although the situation would be kept under review.
Sweden, supported by five other member states, drew Council’s attention to recent evidence showing maltreatment of animals during transport and called for full compliance with existing rules.