MEPs Divided On Milk Policy

EU - The decision on the Nicholson Report by the European Parliament’s Committee of Agriculture has been postponed to late June or even July owing to numerous applications for amendments and ongoing discussions. This report comments on the milk package presented by the European Commission in December on the reform of the EU dairy policy.
calendar icon 16 June 2011
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Martin Häusling (Green Party/EFA) says: “By mid-June we have to switch the focus of debate away from the detailed drafting of contracts and much more onto the two issues of the possibilities of producers pooling and a monitoring agency, with a successful outcome.”

However, Mr Häusling estimates the chances of attaining appropriate upper limits for pooling milk cautiously (about 30 per cent of the milk volume on an EU level and 75 per cent on a national level). It is precisely on this point that rapporteur Mr Nicholson does not seem ready to compromise.

Elisabeth Jeggle (EPP) regards the strengthening of the dairy farms, in particular the smaller farms, and greater transparency in the milk market as the most important points in the debate. Her conservative colleague Richard Ashworth from the UK (Conservative Party) on the other hand has a quite different view: the dairy farms have to invest more heavily in growth and in the processing side. That would enable them to negotiate with the dairies on an even footing in the future. Small farms will soon be a thing of the past, and there is no room for nostalgia, he says.

There appears to be a new dynamic in the discussion about a special position for cooperatives. Many MEPs have recognised that the majority of today’s cooperatives represent the interest of their members only to a limited extent, and so milk producers in cooperatives must be allowed to join independent producer organisations. This is the position held for instance by the Social Democrat Marc Tarabella from Belgium (S&D party).

However, Sieta van Keimpema, Vice-President of the European Milk Board, feels that this is still not the majority position on the issue.

"Not enough decision-makers have understood what a problematic role the cooperatives have for the milk producers, and so they see no need for double membership."

On the other hand, Ms van Keimpema feels there are good chances of a monitoring agency being set up. But such an agency must not become a mechanism for serving the interests of the industry. That is why a rational calculation of production costs is so important as the basis for the monitoring agency’s work.

Until the end of June there will still be many discussions to come up with a compromise from the many different points of view. Whether this compromise will strengthen the position of the milk producers in the market remains to be seen, says European Milk Board member Sonja Korspeter.

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