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Minister Smith urges caution on milk markets and calls for CAP simplification

Speaking at the meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Brussels today, Minister Brendan Smith TD called for great care to be taken in the response by the EU to improved milk prices.  "The recent improvement in the market situation has been a very welcome and essential development.  The actions taken by the Commission and the decisions we have taken here at Council during the year have stabilised the market.  However, the situation remains uncertain as prices appear to be levelling off and we must be careful in how we proceed.  A firm recovery is still not certain and the situation remains quite fragile".

The Minister called for particular care in relation to the disposal of intervention stocks.  "It is vital that we do not destabilise the market at this time and that prices have a chance to recover fully".  The Minister also called for export refunds to be rapidly reintroduced if the market situation called for it.

The Council of Ministers also discussed efforts to simplify the rules and procedures involved in operating the common agricultural policy.  Proposals for simplification measures were made last May by a group consisting of Ireland and 12 other countries.  In reviewing progress on these proposals, the Council agreed that while there had been useful work done, further efforts were needed.  Minister Smith said "I insisted that we must not take our foot off the peddle on simplification, and there was strong agreement for this from other Ministers". Officials will now continue the very detailed work involved in this and report to Ministers on a regular basis.  "In addition to this immediate work, I was also particularly pleased that my suggestion that policy simplification should form a fundamental plank of our consideration of the shape of the CAP after 2013 was reflected by the Swedish chairman in concluding the debate.  We need a simple EU agricultural policy - simple to justify to EU taxpayers, simple for farmers to understand and operate and simple for Member States to implement and enforce".

Among the other issues considered at the meeting of Agriculture Ministers was the CAP after 2013, and in particular the Rural Development or "Pillar 2" aspects of the common policy.  Pillar 1 of the CAP consists of the Single Farm Payment and market support measures.  "I reiterated my support for continuing the two pillar structure of the CAP" said Minister Smith.

"In relation to the agriculture elements of Rural Development, I called for a focus on supporting competitiveness and sustainability in our farming systems.  Measures which promote competitiveness will perform a pivotal role in encouraging efficiency and innovation in farming for the future.  These measures are critical to the future of Irish and European farming and should be maintained and enhanced."

Turning to the sustainability issue, the Minister said that agri-environment schemes will play an important role in the future in addressing the current and emerging challenges to the environment.  "These schemes produce real public goods which are of benefit to all our citizens and for which farmers should be paid".

Date Released: 16 December 2009