Voluntary milk reduction programme losing support in Europe

A plan to allow dairy cooperatives and farmers to agree to cut milk production on a temporary basis is losing support in Europe, Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Dairy Chairman, William Irvine has said.

This was confirmed at a meeting in Brussels of COPA, the umbrella body of European farm lobby organisations, according to the UFU.

The voluntary reduction initiative was first considered in March by COPA, which the UFU says that then and now the issue is that the emergency scheme was introduced by the European Commission without any funding.

At our meeting this week it was clear that support for this initiative has weakened even further, with only Finland, France and Spain expressing any interest.

He added that it was also made clear again by the Commission this week that there is no funding available for the programme.

From the outset, the UFU opposed the supply reduction programme, on grounds that a voluntary scheme without funding could never deliver a meaningful outcome.

The Dairy Chairman said there was now widespread acceptance that the evidence failed to support the case.

“It was clear from the meeting this week that almost all Member States have big doubts about the effectiveness of such a programme,” he said.

Last month, the European Commission announced a second package of exceptional measures aimed at alleviating the ongoing crises in the dairy and pigmeat sectors.

One of the measures introduced was the Application Of Voluntary Supply Management (Article 222).

The Commission will activate, for a limited period of time, the possibility to enable producer organisations, interbranch organisations and co-operatives in the dairy sector to establish voluntary agreements on their production and supply.

This is the so-called Article 222 from the Common Market Organisation (CMO), which is specific to the agricultural sector and can be applied in case of severe imbalance in the market.

The Commission has concluded that the strict conditions for the application of this article to the dairy sector are fulfilled in the current circumstances.

This is an exceptional measure, which must also safeguard the EU internal market and was included by the legislators in the 2013 CAP reform but never used before.