Agriculture ministers in Europe have welcomed a package of measures from the European Commission to help the bloc’s struggling milk farmers. The 500-million-euro boost comes after farmer protests.
The European Commission announced more details on Tuesday of the 500 million euro ($443 million) aid package for European dairy farmers. European agriculture ministers had agreed to the measures earlier this month.
The bulk of the funds, 420 million euros, will be handed out to the EU’s 28 member states.
Under the plan, the three largest EU member states are to receive the most money: 69.2 million euros for Germany; 62.9 million euros for France, 36.1 million euros for the United Kingdom and 29.9 million euros for the Netherlands.
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan explained the allocation, “Reflecting the significant drop in dairy prices over the past year, which has affected all EU producers, the vast majority of the total amount – 80 percent – is allocated on the basis of member states’ milk quotas in the last quota year.”
The wholesale price of milk has fallen by 25 percent in the last year and the farmgate price of a liter of milk is several cents below the cost of production.
German production of cows’ milk on farms was 31,324,000 tons, French farms produced 24,426,000 tons and UK farms 13,943,000 tons. Poland, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain are the next largest producing countries.
Luxembourg’s Agriculture Minister, Fernard Etgen, said, “Most participants in the meeting generally welcomed the package of measures announced by the Commission as an initial response to this situation, whilst suggesting possible improvements.”
Hogan added that the emergency package was an “exceptional” measure and said it was unlikely to be repeated next year.
The funds are to be distributed earlier than other EU subsidies, most of which are distributed in mid-October. “In response to the call from a number of member states for further flexibility, I will now propose that Member States may pay 70 percent of advances after the administrative controls have been completed and without the need to complete the on-the-spot checks,” Hogan told ministers.
The Commission also said it was to buy 30 million euros worth of milk products from European farmers for distribution to refugees.