EU - The Agriculture and Fisheries Council recently held a public debate on a proposal for organic farming.
Member states took the view that an EU harmonised approach could address the issue of the presence of non-authorised substances in organic products. However they differed over whether this should depend on the establishment of legally binding thresholds or on the existing system of controls in the production process.
For imports, most member states were in favour of a gradual shift to a compliance regime. Third countries would have to apply EU standards, but some derogations and an appropriate transition period would allow for a smooth adaptation.
On controls, most member states prefer to keep mandatory annual inspections but with the possible addition of risk based controls.
The President of the Council underlined that: "The debate we had today on organic farming provides a good basis for us to meet our goal of reaching a general approach at the Council next May before launching negotiations with the European Parliament".
Implementation and simplification of the CAP:
In the debate, ministers exchanged views on their experiences in the implementation of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The most important issues highlighted as needing simplification in direct payments were the 'greening' measures and the controls.
Minister Janis Duklavs recalled that: "Member states supported the efforts of Presidency to agree Council conclusions on CAP simplification in May. Some of the issues raised by the member states require urgent attention as rules will have to apply on the ground already this spring. There are some areas where simplification might be possible through minor amendments to the existing provisions established by the Commission".
The Commission also described the situation with regard to the dairy market in the context of the abolition of the milk quota system next April.
Many member states expressed concerns, but some considered that the sector should be able to adapt to the change by using instruments already available within the framework of direct payments and rural development. Some pointed out that price volatility could have a significant effect on milk producers, and that the Commission would therefore have to monitor the situation very closely through the Milk Market Observatory and put forward appropriate proposals to address the issue if necessary.
For the President of the Council, Minister Duklavs said: "The milk market will have to be monitored closely to assess how the abolition of milk quotas will affect the sector. The Presidency will continue to encourage discussions in the Council in order to give appropriate guidance to the Commission on necessary measures."
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