The European Commission has said it will offer a number of measures, including increased flexibility, to help farmers grappling with the difficulties of extreme droughts.

Farmers will be able to receive their direct and rural development payments in advance and will be granted more flexibility to use land that would normally not be used for production, in order to feed their animals.

The ongoing and prolonged drought situation in several EU countries is having a significant impact on the production of arable crops, as well as animal feed which could also have an impact on animal welfare.

Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, said: "I am very concerned about these prolonged climatic developments. I have been in contact with a number of ministers from affected countries to discuss the situation and get up-to-date assessments of its impact.

The Commission, as always, is ready to support farmers affected by drought using a number of instruments, including higher advance payments, derogations from greening requirements and state aid.

"The Common Agricultural Policy already provides a safety net for farmers who have to deal with unpredictable events. I am encouraging all Member States to look into all possible actions and measures provided for in our legislation."

Extra support

Two specific decisions have been taken to help farmers deal with droughts, in addition, to support under the existing Common Agricultural Policy legislation:

Higher advanced payments: Farmers will be able to receive up to 70% of their direct payment and 85% of payments under rural development as of mid-October 2018 instead of waiting until December to improve their cash flow situation.

Derogations from specific greening requirements - namely crop diversification and ecological focus area rules on land lying fallow - to allow such land to be used for the production of animal feed.

Consideration is also being given to the adoption of further derogations to greening to allow farmers more flexibility to produce fodder. These measures will be of particular benefit to livestock farmers.

Existing support under the CAP

Under existing agricultural state aid rules, aid of up to 80% of the damage caused by drought (or up to 90% in Areas of Natural Constraint) can be provided, subject to certain specific conditions.

The purchase of fodder can qualify for aid as either material damage or income loss.

Compensation for damage can also be granted without the need to notify the Commission (the so-called "de minimis aid"). Member States may grant aid of up to €15,000 per farmer over three years.