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EU Milk policy: deregulation and speculation are out of date

27 September 2010

We must bring an end to the disappearance of dairy producers, who have a vital role in the rural economy and countryside. There are too many real issues and challenges facing milk policies today to leave them in the hands of the dairy industry. A public dairy policy which gives priority to the interests of citizens and rural areas is more important now than ever.

EU Milk policy: Deregulation and speculation are out of date. We must bring an end to the disappearance of dairy producers, who have a vital role in the rural economy and countryside. There are too many real issues and challenges facing milk policies today to leave them in the hands of the dairy industry. Producers’ groups and inter-professional organizations will not be able solve even the most basic of issues and problems. Given the contradictory interests of stakeholders in the dairy production chain, a public dairy policy which gives priority to the interests of citizens and rural areas is more important now than ever. Without a public policy the interests of the most powerful financial and economic actors always prevail. There could not be a worse time to abandon European regulation of production and to rely solely on the dairy industry. Without public supply management, the contract-based system proposed will have a negative impact on producers - especially the small and medium size ones whose multifunctional nature is particularly important. The current policy proposed by the High Level Group will eliminate these producers, exacerbating unemployment challenges faced by Europe and ignoring the need to guard our grasslands to mitigate climate change. Any focus of the debate on reinforcing the market power of producers and inter-professional organizations without tackling the roots of the dairy crisis is an attempt to delude milk producers. Experiences with inter-professional dairy organizations in France (1) and Spain have illustrated this. Has the priority given to producer’s groups in the fruit & vegetables sector improved the situation of producers in the sector? Instead of improvements we are facing a shift in production of fruit and vegetables towards low-cost countries. Milk cooperatives, which were created to reinforce the power of producers, today often look very similar to the private dairy industry - some even having become transnational organizations far from the interests of their members. The frequent confusion between leaders of co-operatives and of conventional farmers’ unions and the confusion between economic power and professional interests already causes serious misconceptions within existing inter-professional organizations. The HLG proposes to reduce market volatility as if it were a natural phenomenon – but this volatility is the direct result of deregulation, as markets were opened to new areas for gambling and speculation. We urge the EU Agricultural Council and Parliament to abandon this now utterly outdated vision. Even the United States, which is now discussing the regulation of milk production, seems to have understood that times have changed. Today milk prices remain lower than production costs. The current policy still has the instrument of quotas at its disposal. We ask the EU to reverse its absurd decision to annually increase the EU quota when the EU already produces surpluses and to lower this quota in line with domestic consumption - and to make Member States respect the individual quotas. In face of international crises, we can no longer continue to import massive amounts of soya and fertilizers to convert into surpluses of butter and milk powder which are then re-exported. We ask the European Commission, the Council, and the Parliament not to take the route suggested by the HLG, which will not solve the problems of producers, consumers or of the countryside: we need to produce less milk, with more producers, fair prices, public supply management, and a better balanced production between regions - with more meadows and less soya. (2) (1) The Confédération Paysanne (ECVC member) has been occupying the head of the milk interprofessional organization in Paris since Sept 8th because of its non democratic functioning, which excludes some farmer’s organizations. (2) See our position of March 2010 Contacts : Lidia Senra : + 34 609 84 5861(ES-FR)- Josian Palach : +33 671344902 (FR)- Xavier Delwarte: +32 (0) 476 42 39 02 (FR-EN)- Gérard Choplin (Bxl team): +32 (0) 473257378 (FR-EN-DE)

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