Skip to main content

Agricultural and Fisheries Council (18 June)

Volume 547: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council on Monday 18 June in Luxembourg was attended by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for agriculture and food. Alun Davies AM also attended.

The Council discussed the draft rural development regulations, which set the rules for the use of Pillar 2 of the CAP. There were two questions: whether there should be a minimum percentage of spending on environmental activity, and EU co-financing of Pillar 2 measures.

On environmental activity, the proposal included a non-binding guideline of a minimum of 25%. Member states split three ways: those that felt it unnecessary; those that could accept if it remained non-binding, and those that wanted it to be legally binding. There were also calls to include more areas under the provision such as forestry, Natura 2000 and the water framework directive.

On co-financing, the Commission proposal was for a single rate of EU funding for most spending in most member states, with a higher rate for less developed regions and some specific measures. Member states’ views were varied: no increase at all, a simple rate would be a useful simplification, requests for national flexibility, higher rates for countries undergoing austerity, and that environmental measures could be co-financed at 100%. The UK and others argued that money transferred from Pillar 1 to 2 should not require national co-financing.

The presidency presented their report on the CAP negotiations. It was broadly welcomed by member states, but did stimulate some discussion notably on greening and the need to develop wider options for Pillar 1. Newer member states wanted a solution for the convergence of payment levels between member states. A number of member states noted stronger concern about the proposals on capping than was reflected in the report.

The Council adopted conclusions on the protection and welfare of animals. The Netherlands submitted a declaration expressing concern at the Commission’s lack of ambition in the EU welfare strategy and the importance of dealing with the shortcomings identified in their review of the animal transport legislation—and abstained. Sweden, supported by Belgium, Austria and Denmark, made a statement to the same effect as that made by the Netherlands. The UK also made a statement on improving welfare during transport, noting particularly the importance of scientific evidence. The Commission noted the widespread support for their strategy and promised to bring forward various non-legislative proposals to address some of the practical problems on animal transportation.

Under any other business the Commission provided information on the level of member state compliance on sow stalls. Eighteen would be compliant by 1 January 2013 (UK already compliant), but at least nine would not. The Commission stated they would bring infringement proceedings against non-compliant states.

The Commission had written to Ministers on the G20 action plan about food price volatility and agriculture. G20 Ministers and officials had met in Mexico to discuss implementation, and its report and recommendations were discussed at the G20 summit on 18 and 19 June.

The presidency informed the Council of draft conclusions on antimicrobial resistance, expecting the conclusions to be adopted at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) on 22 June.

The Commission presented its routine report on organic production and labelling. There would be no legislative proposals now but they would engage in a consultation until the end of 2013

Poland and Lithuania, supported by eight member states, asked for export refunds to be re-opened. This was rejected by the Commission, but the situation would be kept under review.