I represented the UK at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 14 March in Brussels.
Commissioner Hogan introduced the first agenda item on financial instruments and invited the European Investment bank (EIB) to make a presentation. Many Member States highlighted the importance of improving farmer access to money, which would support modernisation, innovation, research and productivity. The UK and Ireland called on the EIB to be more proactive with Member States and for the Commission to facilitate meetings. The UK also advocated that the EIB should be able to help farmers diversify their product base to higher value products with better market prices.
The second agenda item was on the market situation and support measures. The UK broadly welcomed the package, and gained support for measures that would help farmers boost productivity. These included:
Any Other Business Items
The UK presented an AOB item calling for simplification on the CAP audit process. It highlighted that it should be possible to lighten the burden on administrations and farmers whilst maintaining prudent financial management of CAP funds. 16 other Member States supported the UK. The Commissioner agreed the non-paper would be analysed and discussions would continue on how to further improve the audit and control process.
Italy set out their concerns with Front of Pack food nutrition labelling scheme. The Commission noted that Front of Pack schemes could be an efficient tool to empower consumers. They highlighted the legal requirement for the Commission to review Member State schemes and report back to the Council and the Parliament in December 2017.
Estonia presented the outcome of the High Level Meeting on African Swine Fever held in February 2016. The meeting, attended by affected and bordering Member States, will be held on a six monthly basis to exchange best practice on eradication of the disease.
Draft Conclusions were adopted without discussion on reports by the European Court of Auditors on “EU support to timber producing countries under the FLEGT plan” and “Are the Fisheries Partnership Agreements well managed by the Commission”.