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Commission steps in to help drought-hit farmers
New measures to support EU farmers as they grapple with the difficulties of extreme drought have been announced by the Commission. The decisions will mean farmers are able to receive their direct and rural development payments earlier, mid-October instead of December, as well as being granted more flexibility to use land that would normally not be used for production in order to feed their animals. The decisions are in addition to existing support provided by the CAP, such as agricultural state aid and compensation for damage.
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 impact animal welfare. In addition, the reduction in the level of animal feed will affect the income of livestock farmers, as this will increase their costs if there is a shortage of fodder later in the year.
Expressing his concern about the effect of the prolonged climatic developments, Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, said: "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."
Two specific decisions
Higher advanced payments: farmers will be able to receive up to 70% of their direct payment and 85% of payments under rural development already 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 also qualify for aid as either material damage or income loss.
Member States may grant compensation for damage of up to €15,000 (£13,360 approx) per farmer over three years without notifying the need to notify the Commission.