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EU agriculture ministers support measures to unburden farmers as quickly as possible

Minister Mateja Čalušić has attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, where ministers continued the discussion on the necessary measures to tackle the crisis in agriculture. The European Commission presented a new package of measures to enhance farmers' position in the agri-food chain. The ministers discussed the market situation following the invasion of Ukraine. In early afternoon, Minister Čalušić met with Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski.
Ministers are taking a photo in front of the flags.

From left to right: swedish minister for rural development Peter Kullgren, finish minister for agriculture and forestry Sari Essayah, minister Mateja Čalušić and austrian minister for regions and turism Norbert Totschnig. | Author Finsko ministrstvo za kmetijstvo in gozdarstvo.

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In her doorstep statement, Minister Mateja Čalušić focused on the first item on today's agenda. With regard to measures for reducing administrative burden for farmers drawn up by the European Commission, she noted that: "Slovenia welcomes the measures. We are aware that the European Commission aims to find solutions as quickly as possible. That is why the procedure is necessary [...] Slovenia will promote better integration of cooperatives in the system, simplified procedures and quick solutions. This is crucial for Slovenian and European farmers at present. Slovenian agricultural organisations and our negotiation groups have repeatedly emphasised that the European Commission should give greater consideration to the natural characteristics and specifics of member states. The proposed amendments facilitate adaptation, allow for quicker changes to the common agricultural policy and facilitate solution-seeking. This is the most important aspect addressed by the proposed measures. I believe this is very good for Slovenian farmers." Minister Čalušić pointed out that Slovenia will continue to actively take part in nature protection procedures, in particular for reducing administrative burdens. "The protests highlighted the need for changes, which should have happened sooner, but we expect them to happen quickly now." 

Minister Čalušić met with Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski in the margins of the meeting of EU agriculture ministers. She informed the Commissioner about Slovenia's efforts to more appropriately designate environmentally sensitive permanent grassland areas in Slovenia. One of the primary demands of protesting Slovenian farmers is for a more suitable designation of these areas. She thanked him for the support of the European Commission in financing the recovery efforts following the August floods and informed him about the utilisation of these funds.

The main items on today's agenda of the EU Council were the proposals of the European Commission to simplify the implementation of the common agricultural policy (CAP) and strengthen farmers' position in the food supply chain, as well as market situation. The measures for reducing administrative burden for farmers were already presented in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in late February this year and a legislative act prepared by the European Commission was published on 15 March based on reactions from member states. The measures include changes to the methodology for the area monitoring system to reduce the number of on-farm visits, adjustments to the requirement for transmitting geo-tagged photos for controlling area measures and the introduction of "the right to error", exemptions from implementing some good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAECs), the exemption of small farms (up to 10 hectares) from controls related to compliance with conditionality requirements, which is an especially important measure for Slovenia, the exemption of small farms from implementing certain GAECs, the simplification of procedures to amend the strategic plans for the common agricultural policy and the possibility of amending them more than once per year. While most countries supported the proposed measures to reduce the administrative burden, they also noted that this represents just the first step and that future efforts will be needed. Minister Čalušić recalled that: "It is important to find balance between simplifications, the flexibility in implementation and the goals of the Green Deal." She welcomed greater flexibility in implementing GAECs, the possibility to consider national specifics and reduced controls for small farms. She supported the proposals of the European Commission to enhance the farmers' position in the agri-food chain. She emphasised that: "the launch of an observatory of productions costs, margins and trading practices is an important step towards collecting the necessary data and ensuring greater transparency." She highlighted the importance of cooperatives and their inclusion in producer organisations with greater flexibility. With regard to long-term measures, she expressed her satisfaction at the fact that: "during the recent European Council, the heads of governments stressed the strategic role of agriculture, the importance of CAP and the need to ensure stability and predictability in EU policies. This should form the basis for discussions on the future of agriculture in the EU." She supported Austria's conclusions on the difficulties in preparing for the implementation for the Deforestation Regulation.

The ministers discussed the market situation following the invasion of Ukraine based on the information provided by the Commission and member states. Similar to 2023, the market situation in 2024 has stabilised with a decrease in input costs and in inflation. Agriculture is becoming increasingly exposed to climate change, impacting both the extent and quality of harvests and production. Member states report positive market trends in certain sectors, but they recall that problems persist and that market measures are needed to tackle the challenges in the market resulting from consecutive crises, as well as a sufficient financial support. Minister Mateja Čalušić presented the market situation in Slovenia, where we witness some positive trends. She noted: "Slovenia remains a strong supporter of Ukraine and supports the Union's efforts to preserve agriculture in Ukraine. Since we are aware of the importance that trade has for Ukraine, Slovenia supported the measure to extend the temporary trade-liberalisation measures for one year. Slovenia considers it important to put in place enhanced protective mechanisms to counteract the negative impacts on the EU internal market, in particular, in countries bordering Ukraine."

The Belgian presidency provided information on the results of presidency events on the future of agriculture and the CAP. In line with the Presidency's work programme, the focus is on the CAP. This includes both the implementation of strategic plans of the reformed CAP in the 2023–2027 period and the future CAP, and a strategic dialogue on the future of EU agriculture and the impact of the EU enlargement on agriculture. The Belgian Presidency organised a symposium on the future of agriculture in the EU in early February and a conference "Drafting CAP Strategic Plans: Challenges and Opportunities" in late February.

The ministers also discussed several AOB items. The Austrian delegation reported on the challenges for European agriculture and forestry posed by the Deforestation Regulation in the context of the current crisis in agriculture, while the Lithuanian delegation reported on the meeting of Nordic-Baltic agriculture ministers. The Spanish delegation highlighted the importance of ensuring new genomic techniques in agriculture to enhance resilience, sustainability and profitability, and reported on the preliminary ruling on total allowable catch by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Portuguese delegation informed the ministers about the compensation from the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund provided in case of exceptional events. The Belgian presidency reported on the outcome of the "Call to care for animal welfare symposium", and the French delegation on the selection of a new director-general for the World Organisation for Animal Health taking place in May 2024.

In the margins of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the alliance of nine Mediterranean and Southern European Union members – EUMED9 (Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) met yesterday, 25 March, at the invitation of Cyprus, to discuss topics from today's Council meeting. State Secretary Eva Knez attended the meeting.