EU Ag Minister Ciolos holds firm on milk quota rules
The EU Commission has ruled out taking 'unilateral action' to prevent dairy farmers across Europe facing a massive superlevy fine next year.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said the Commission wanted Farm Ministers from member states to agree any actions that may be taken.
While Mr Ciolos accepted that the Commission could increase the butterfat allowance without getting clearance from the Council of Ministers, he said he was unwilling to pursue this option.
"I have no intention of taking unilateral measures without clear support, i.e. a political mandate from the Council (of ministers). If we were to take such a unilateral approach and there were to be severe market problems in two or three years' time, the Commission would face enormous criticism – and rightly so," Mr Ciolos said.
The Commissioner admitted that the Council of Ministers was deeply divided on the milk quota issue and he would prefer some consensus to emerge from their June meeting.
Countries planning major post-April 2015 dairy expansion – including Ireland, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Belgium – are seeking leeway from the Commission to minimise their exposure to superlevy fines. Countries operating within quota, including the UK, Finland, Portugal and others, are resisting any changes to current quota regulations.
"We've already seen that the Council is very divided on this," said Commissioner Ciolos. "And we must be careful that we don't end up penalising those farmers who have respected the rules and the quotas, rather than some farmers who have simply expanded production because they have seen market opportunities."
However, he stressed that the milk quota regime would remain in place for 2014/15, saying the new Milk Market Observatory was a positive development and would help deal with volatility in the market.