September 8, 2009

EU Ag ministers urge help for dairies

A majority of European Union agricultural ministers, including France and Germany, urged renewed help for dairy farmers struggling with price declines.

The price European dairy farmers receive for milk peaked in mid-2008 and has since fallen 40 percent to price levels unseen since 1992, the EUobserver reported Tuesday.

Sixteen out of the European Union's 27 agricultural ministers on Monday voiced concern over the so-called milk crisis, while hundreds of farmers protested outside the meeting in Brussels.

In order to prevent a disappearance of farms on a grand scale, the EU must take strong and concrete new measures, the agriculture ministers said in a joint statement.

In July, the European Commission recommended a series of support measures, including milk promotions and allowing increased farmer subsidies. But the commission did not back away from its plan to phase out milk quotas, which are scheduled to end in 2015.

We have to do all we can to help our milk producers, said agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel. However, we will not reverse our policy of gently phasing out quotas. Putting this into doubt would only create uncertainty and would do nothing to help the situation anyway, Boel said.