My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), represented the UK at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 17 May in Brussels.
There were four main agenda items. The presidency introduced the first debate on climate and agriculture since the COP21 agreement. The target is to cut 40% of emissions by 2030, which requires legislation on national targets and includes initiatives such as LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry). Commissioner Hogan, DG Agriculture, sought to reassure the Council of the need to balance food security with climate targets. In a full round table, all member states supported ambitious climate goals as long as they do not compromise food security, and there was a general call to include and strengthen environment CAP tools.
The Commission then presented the Eurobarometer results, which show significant public support for the EU’s work and standards on animal welfare. All member states except Austria and the Czech Republic pushed the Commission to establish a platform to share best practice on implementation and enforcement between themselves. Commissioner Andriukaitis, DG Sante, agreed to present his plan at the next Council.
The Czech Republic raised an issue about the different qualities of multinational branded food products sold across the single market. Commissioner Andriukaitis encouraged any member states to send any evidence of consumers being misled to the Commission.
Commissioner Hogan then made a short presentation on the state of play of CAP simplification. He gave a summary of direct payment simplifications enacted so far, and made it clear that greening simplification would be discussed in June Council. There were interventions, including from the UK, on the proposed yellow card system. The UK reiterated requests made in March Council on audit and controls simplification.
Commissioner Hogan then moved to update member states on the market situation support measures. During this agenda item four related AOBs were addressed: the crisis situation in the milk market; the situation in commodity markets; severe damages in agricultural production due to late frost and snow; and geographical indications during international trade negotiations.
There was a full round of interventions from member states who maintained their existing positions on the market crisis. The UK intervention focused on sustainable solutions to improving the market situation and noted progress made in these areas such as increased export opportunity, the work of the market taskforce, and the new meat market observatory that will be up and running by the summer
Any other business items
Austria requested that TTIP be discussed. Several member states had complained about a lack of transparency in sensitive TTIP negotiations. Commissioner Hogan intervened about this and other trade deals. He reminded Council that his objective was to conclude deals, but that he was looking at the big picture. On Mercosur, the Commission had amended the EU offer but he warned the Council that there would be a compromise on agriculture at some point.
The Commission reported back on the recent G7 agriculture meeting in Japan. He noted valuable conclusions had been reached, with formal cooperation having been agreed on anti-microbial resistance and animal disease.
Poland introduced the proposed NEC Directive, and described the impact it could have on agriculture. They noted that reducing ammonia emissions would be costly for farmers, particularly medium-sized farms. Commissioner Hogan reported that Commissioner Vella was looking for a compromise in trilogues.