Intense stress and pressure on family farms across the EU
Mairead McGuinness MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament has said the slump in farm commodity prices is deep and shows little sign of abating – a reality now acknowledged by EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan.
The depth of the crisis came into sharp focus in Strasbourg this week as a French MEP recalled that 600 French farmers had died by suicide linked to the situation in the agriculture sector.
At a meeting of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee on Monday evening, McGuinness said: “There is something very rotten in our society today if those who produce food are so desperate on their farms that they are committing suicide. We do have to ask ourselves what state we are in that we have to eat food three times a day and those who produce it are so desperate.”
MEPs held a minute of silence for all farmers who committed suicide due to their dire situation arising from the ongoing crisis on agriculture markets.
Many MEPs welcomed the Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan’s recognition that the EU farming sector is experiencing “a deep and profound crisis which in the short term shows little sign of improvement.” The committee further called on the Commission to act to help EU farmers cope with falling prices for their produce. The Commission should use all available tools and not shy away from proposing new ones even if it entails legislative changes.
It is, however, clear that Commissioner Hogan does not support increasing the intervention price for milk, but is exploring voluntary supply control measures. The Commissioner was also asked to examine input costs to farmers, and in particular fertiliser prices where savings of €14/tonne could be achieved by reducing import tariffs.
The call for more action comes amidst continuing volatility on markets, but more could be done to ensure farmers get a fair return for their produce, according to MEP McGuinness.
“It is not only dairy and pig-meat sectors that are facing the crisis but grain farmers and fruit and vegetable growers are struggling too. I have reiterated my call for EU legislation to tackle unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and have asked Commissioner Hogan to put the case forward for such action with his fellow Commissioners to do more to ensure fairness in the food supply chain.
Speaking after the meeting, McGuinness added: “Farm families are the backbone of our economy and we need to ensure that EU policies support farmers in making a viable living out of food production.
“It is important that farm families who are under pressure receive support and do not feel alone and isolated by the situation they find themselves in,” she added, urging anyone who is under pressure to seek help.