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Confirmation that the Commission will accede to French demands for voluntary milk supply controls represents a very worrying development. Earlier this week Commissioner Hogan confirmed to the European Parliament Agriculture Committee that he was “looking at voluntary measures which can help to regulate supply under Article 222…to see can we get approval for that”. At next Monday’s Council of Agriculture Ministers, it is expected that the measures will be agreed, despite expected strong opposition from Ireland and our allies in the Netherlands and Denmark.

The details Article 222 will be explained in separate article, but in simple terms, it provides for groups of farmers, either in co-op or producer organisations, deciding to compensate members who reduce supply, possibly to the tune of 10c per litre reduction. We have two fundamental problems with the concept. Firstly, it makes no sense for European farmers to reduce supply whilst the rest of the world is free to produce. Europe reducing would just burden us with supply measurement and control systems and restrict our ability to capitalise on the upturn when it does come. Secondly, voluntary measures are just the thin end of the wedge. The act of setting up these measures is the difficult bit; it wouldn’t take must to convert them into compulsory measures if the market was bad enough. Or worse still, to apply a levy to Irish expansion to compensate French or Spanish farmers who want to reduce.

The Minister needs to work with his allies and do whatever it takes to undermine this proposal.

By TJ Flanagan