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Agriculture ministers from the 27 member states gathered in Brussels to approve measures aimed at reducing administrative burdens on farmers and addressing imbalances in the food supply chain. The measures, proposed by the Commission in February, focus on simplifying eligibility for EU farming subsidies. These measures include reducing green conditions required to receive Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding and providing exemptions from checks for farms under 10 hectares, which will benefit 65% of CAP beneficiaries. Agriculture ministers acknowledged the progress made but stressed the need for further actions to improve farmers’ position within the food chain, particularly in light of protests by farmers over increasing production costs.

One major concern for farmers is the erosion of their margins due to rising prices of inputs like fertilisers and plant protection products. To address this issue, the Commission presented a reflection paper outlining various measures to strengthen farmers’ position in the food supply chain. This includes setting up a European crisis observatory on production costs and margins and tackling unfair commercial practices. The Commission aims to overhaul the Unfair Trade Practices (UTPs) directive to address imbalances in the EU food supply chain and protect farmers from unfair practices. This directive currently sets out a list of 16 forbidden unfair practices at the EU level, but some member states have additional legislation on the matter. The focus will be on ensuring that farmers are not paid less than their production costs, without burdening consumers with increased food prices.

The EU Agriculture Commissioner emphasizes the importance of reinstating a correct relationship between large purchasing companies and farmers in order to address the unequal bargaining power in the food supply chain. The revised directive aims to prevent purchasing entities from bypassing rules by implementing them at the European level, ensuring consistent implementation across member states. By including a prohibition on paying farmers less than production costs in the directive, the Commission hopes to protect farmers and ensure fair treatment within the supply chain. This will help address the concerns raised by farmers and prevent further protests over increasing costs and decreasing margins.

The agriculture ministers agreed on the need to pursue further actions to support farmers and address the challenges they face in the food supply chain. While progress has been made in reducing administrative burdens on farmers, more work is needed to improve their position and protect them from unfair practices. The Commission’s reflection paper and proposed measures aim to tackle these issues by strengthening farmers’ position in the supply chain and ensuring fair treatment. By working towards a revised Unfair Trade Practices directive that guarantees protection for farmers and consistency across member states, the EU aims to create a more balanced and fair environment for farmers to operate in. This will help alleviate the pressures faced by farmers and ensure a sustainable and equitable food supply chain in the EU.

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