EU States Urge Change in Agriculture Rules to Ease Farmers’ Fury

(Bloomberg) -- A majority of European Union countries are urging the bloc’s executive to speed up its review of agricultural policies and develop a concrete plan for measures to ease unrest among farmers across the region.

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Agriculture ministers from 22 of the EU’s 27 states say they want to see strong and immediate action with specific milestones to resolve issues including conditions for financial support, according to a letter sent this week to the European Commission and seen by Bloomberg News.

“It is crucial for us to be able to communicate to farmers about the mid-term changes before autumn and to make them as visible as possible,” said the ministers from countries including France, Spain, Poland and Italy. The letter was addressed to commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic and Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski.

European farmers have been protesting falling incomes and rising costs, unfair competition from countries outside the bloc, as well as climate-focused legislation under the EU’s Green Deal to zero out emissions by 2050.

Meanwhile, the commission is working on new legislative proposals to loosen the burden on the sector resulting from the environment-related demands in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The executive is expected to present its proposals on March 15, days before EU leaders meet in Brussels where they will discuss agriculture and other topics.

The ministers are seeking more flexibility on conditions for receiving financial aid under the CAP, simplifying the management of national plans and relieving pressure of controls in the sector, among other issues.

“Given the level of farmers’ expectations, it is of utmost importance that we know quickly what changes will be made and in what time frame,” they wrote. “New and even higher standards have become increasingly difficult for farmers to accept.”

The commission told EU ambassadors on Wednesday that it is assessing proposals made in the ministers’ letter, according to people familiar with the matter. Last month it signaled readiness to simplify rules for farmers and cut the red tape as thousands employed in the agriculture sector blocked the streets in European cities to demand legislative changes.

“We have worked on the just transition for coal workers, but we’ve not done so much on what is the impact of all this deep transformation for farmers,” Teresa Ribera, Spain’s environmental minister, said in a Bloomberg interview earlier this week.

--With assistance from John Ainger.

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