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Agriculture and Fisheries Council (18 February)

Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

My noble Friend the Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming and Animal Health represented the United Kingdom at this month’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels.

The Council held a policy debate, based on a presidency questionnaire, on the Commission’s communication on the CAP health check. The questionnaire asked Ministers to identify their three priorities for the health check and to present their objectives for dairy reform. The UK called for full decoupling, the dismantling of all market instruments, an increase in compulsory modulation to fund environmental challenges and we opposed limits on higher farm payments, due to the distortion and bureaucracy which that would entail. Member states expressed a wide range of views.

The Council failed to reach a qualified majority for or against on the five proposals to authorise the importation, processing and marketing of four types of GM maize for use in food and animal feed and also for the use of one type of GM potato for use in animal feed. The Commission will now take a decision under its own authority.

Under any other business, the Netherlands suggested the use of CITES—Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—as an additional legislative option to combat the illegal timber trade. The UK intervened to support the principle but called for all possible tools to be used, as CITES was not the most effective instrument to combat illegal logging.

The Netherlands, supported by 13 member states, also drew the Commission’s attention to the inadequate levels of co-financing available for funding the bluetongue vaccination programme.

Cyprus, supported by Greece, drew attention to the consequences of recent droughts on the domestic farming sector.

Sweden, supported by a few member states, expressed concerns following the European Court of Justice’s ruling concerning the eligibility criteria for the bovine slaughter premium and asked the Commission to bring forward a proposal rectifying the situation. The Agriculture Commissioner said that a proposal was currently being drafted that would prevent the problem from 2008 onwards.

Germany, supported by a few member states, called for further relief measures in the form of private storage aid and export refunds to alleviate the difficulties currently being experienced in the pigmeat sector. The Agriculture Commissioner said that a proposal to extend private storage by a further three months would be submitted to the Pigmeat Management Committee on 21 February.

Belgium, supported by France, drew the Commission’s attention to the level of economic damage caused by bluetongue and asked for the use of exceptional market support measures.

The Agriculture Commissioner updated the Council on the state of play on the WTO negotiations.