The next Agriculture and Fisheries Council is on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 October, in Luxembourg. I shall represent the UK on agriculture matters on Thursday, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Minister with responsibility for agriculture and food. On Friday the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Minister with responsibility for natural environment and fisheries, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) will be representing the United Kingdom on the fisheries items. Richard Lochhead MSP, Michelle O’Neil MLA and Alun Davies AM will also attend.
Council will deal with agricultural business on the first day. It will open with a presentation by the Commission of the new proposals for CAP reform before member states are given the opportunity to give initial reactions during two full table rounds. The first table round will focus on the proposals for direct payments to farmers and rural development. The second table round will cover the more technical aspects of the common market organisation and control measures.
There are two other agriculture items on the main agenda. The first relates to distribution of food to the most deprived persons in the Union. This returns to Council after discussion in September, with a revised Commission proposal that now has a social policy as well as CAP legal base. The second item relates to the international wine organisation (OIV), that has its annual meeting later in October. The Commission wishes to lead for the EU in an area of exclusive competence and will propose a mandate for it to do so.
Finally, on agricultural issues, there is an AOB item on the welfare of laying hens. The EU agreed to phase out battery cages for hens for egg production some years ago and the deadline for implementation is the end of 2011. The Commission will present data on how far member states have progressed towards compliance.
The second day of Council will deal with the two fisheries items on the agenda. The first item relates to the seeking of agreement on allocation of fishing opportunities in the Baltic sea. The second item sees the opening of the EU/Norway annual consultations on fishing opportunities for 2012.