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Agriculture Council (19 January 2009)

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2009

I represented the United Kingdom at January’s Agriculture Council in Brussels, the first under the Czech presidency. Elin Jones, the Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs, also attended.

The CAP Health Check was adopted under the ‘A’ items.

The presidency set out the four priorities it would take forward over the next six months:

Future of the CAP—discussion would continue on the future of the CAP, focusing on objectives in its post-2013 incarnation. The presidency would conduct discussions at its informal Council with a view to achieving consensus on a way forward at the June Council meeting.

Green Paper on “Quality Policy”—would be taken forward at a ministerial conference in Prague on 12 and 13 March. The output would inform a Commission Communication, discussion of which would take place at the May Council, followed by Council conclusions in June.

Rural Development—work would continue on the review of less-favoured areas (LFAs).

CAP Simplification—the presidency would hold discussion in the Council. The Commission would present a progress report to the March Council meeting. Council conclusions would be tabled at the May session.

Work on foodstuffs, novel foods and food labelling, the welfare of animals at slaughter, the animal testing directive, the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture, and the reform of the common fisheries policy, were also highlighted.

On the main items, the Commission presented its draft negotiating mandate for Community accession to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), followed by a draft regulation setting out requirements on operators who place timber on the Community market to exercise due diligence, ensuring that such timber is legally logged.

Next, the presidency confirmed that there was neither a qualified majority of member states in favour, nor against, Commission proposals to authorise the placing on the market (but not cultivation) of a herbicide tolerant oilseed rape and a blue carnation. The Commission would now adopt under its own powers.

There were a number of items under any other business. There were calls for higher aid intensities to be provided for in response to the global economic downturn and for provision of private storage aid for 100,000 tonnes of pigmeat. The Commission proposed the reintroduction of export refunds in the dairy sector.