Aus­tri­ans lend sup­port to coali­tion op­posed to post-2020 CAP cuts

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE -

MORE than a mil­lion EU cit­i­zens have signed a pe­ti­tion to end pig mu­ti­la­tion and abuse, which ac­tivists say is still ram­pant across the con­ti­nent.

Footage re­leased by the Eurogroup for An­i­mals or­gan­i­sa­tion shows piglets be­ing cas­trated with­out pain re­lief, a sick sow be­ing blud­geoned to death, and the overuse of elec­tric prods.

The group says more than 90pc of Europe’s pigs end up hav­ing their tails docked sim­ply be­cause they live in cramped quar­ters. Re­cent in­ves­ti­ga­tions in Italy have found se­vere mis­treat­ment of pigs bred for Parma ham.

The pe­ti­tion is call­ing on farm min­is­ters and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to stop all pig mu­ti­la­tions and en­sure an­i­mal wel­fare rules are prop­erly im­ple­mented. AUS­TRIA will fight for farm spend­ing post-2020, de­spite push­ing for an over­all EU bud­get cut.

The coun­try’s agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, Elis­a­beth Köstinger, told the Farm­ing In­de­pen­dent that she wants to “main­tain” the same bud­get for the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy (CAP) in the EU’s 2021-27 spend­ing plan.

“The heads of state will make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on the EU bud­get,” said Ms Köstinger, who cur­rently chairs EU farm min­is­ters’ meet­ings. “How­ever, as min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, I will work to main­tain the CAP bud­get.”

Aus­tria, one of the bloc’s bud­get hawks, wants an over­all cut to the EU’s tril­lion-euro seven-year bud­get. But with 87pc of Aus­trian farms in moun­tain­ous or dif­fi­cult-to-reach ar­eas, the gov­ern­ment is also keen to keep farm sub­si­dies and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment money at cur­rent lev­els.

The min­is­ter joins around 20 of her EU col­leagues in push­ing for CAP spend­ing to be frozen at cur­rent lev­els (around €56bn a year for the EU as a whole). The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has sug­gested cut­ting the bud­get by 5pc post-2020.

With Brexit, mi­gra­tion and other pri­or­i­ties weigh­ing on EU spend­ing plans, agri­cul­ture chief Phil Ho­gan says gov­ern­ments will have to stump up any ex­tra cash they want for the CAP.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is also over­haul­ing how and why farm sub­si­dies are paid, link­ing them to en­vi­ron­men­tal, an­i­mal wel­fare and other EU goals.

Ms Köstinger, whose full ti­tle is min­is­ter for sus­tain­abil­ity and tourism, said that while Euro­pean farm­ers face “ma­jor chal­lenges”, they also need to boost their cli­mate cre­den­tials.

“Beyond its pri­mary func­tion, agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties shape the land­scape, the sus­tain­able manage­ment of nat­u­ral re­sources, and the preser­va­tion of bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity,” she said.

“Cli­mate pro­tec­tion and the adap­ta­tion to cli­mate change be­come more and more im­por- tant. No doubt that the CAP has to de­liver in that sense as well.”

How­ever, she said she prefers “a con­tin­u­ous evo­lu­tion to rad­i­cal changes” in the way the CAP works. “The CAP has con­stantly evolved since its in­tro­duc­tion more than 50 years ago. Its ini­tial ob­jec­tives, how­ever, still re­main valid.”

Pri­or­ity list

Top of Ms Köstinger’s pri­or­ity list be­tween now and De­cem­ber — while Aus­tria holds the bloc’s six-monthly ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency — is to agree new rules on “un­fair trad­ing prac­tices” such as late pay­ments, giv­ing farm­ers more power in their deal­ings with buy­ers. MEPs, how­ever, want to go fur­ther than the draft rules, catch­ing large pro­duc­ers, as well as su­per­mar­ket gi­ants, in the net.

She said “a fair stan­dard of liv­ing for farm­ers” is her pri­or­ity. “We are aware that the Par­lia­ment would like to see larger pro­duc­ers cov­ered by the di­rec­tive. We are look­ing for­ward to work­ing to­gether with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and all stake­hold­ers in­volved in or­der to find an ap­pro­pri­ate an­swer to this ques­tion.”

Au­di­tors have been vis­it­ing farms across the EU

Aus­trian agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Elis­a­beth Köstinger wants CAP spend­ing frozen at cur­rent lev­els

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