Measures to promote EU's farm products should help to boost their sales not only abroad, but also on the internal market, and all campaigns should benefit from higher EU's co-financing share under draft rules adopted Tuesday by the Agriculture committee. MEPs also granted Commission new powers to restore consumer confidence in case of disease outbreaks or other market disruptions.

To ensure that new EU promotion policy is robust and coherent, MEPs scrapped the different approach proposed by the Commission to publicly funded internal and external campaigns. Promotion of EU products should not be excluded on the internal market and information campaigns abroad could also focus on high standards that EU producers must meet when it comes to food safety, animal welfare, traceability, cultural traditions, taste and others, MEPs stressed. (CA2, Art 2-3)

Higher and fairer co-financing

The Agriculture committee also voted down Commission's proposal to set different co-financing rates for simple programmes, i.e. those submitted by organisations or farmers coming from a single member state, and multi programmes submitted by farmers from several EU countries.

MEPs backed the idea that funding should come exclusively from the EU and the proposing organisation, excluding thus member states from financial participation. But to offset possible lack of funding on the operator's side, they insisted on increasing the EU's co-funding share.

All information and promotion campaigns should benefit from at least 75% co-financing and in the event of the crises, the EU's share should be increased to at least 85%, says approved text. Commission originally proposed 50% ceiling for co-financing for simple programmes (which could go up to 60% in some cases) and maximum of 60% for multi programmes. (CA5, art15, rec16; CA6, art18)

Flexible measures to deal with crisis

To tackle market disturbances but also loss of consumer confidence, such as the one in 2011 when Spanish cucumbers were wrongly blamed for causing E.coli outbreak in the EU, the Agriculture committee inserted new provisions in the legal text empowering Commission to quickly adopt measures and promptly launch effective campaigns to restore normal market conditions. (CA7, art 10.2a; CA1, art 1a, rec 10a)

Longer list of covered products

MEPs also expanded the list of products that could benefit from EU promotion measures, which would now fully include wines with protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI) label, foodstuffs based on all agriculture products, but also, if bundled in a promotion or information campaign with other eligible items, fish and aquaculture products. (CA3, Art.5)

EU to help operators tackle unfair practices abroad

MEPs also insisted on better protection of EU products on external markets against unfair practices such as imitation or counterfeit products. Commission should in such cases provide advice and assistance to EU operators and make the best use of existing legislation to support them, they say. (CA2, rec. 12a)

Next steps

The report, drafted by Esther Herranz García (EPP, ES), was adopted by the Agriculture committee by 19 votes in favour to 12 against, with three abstentions. MEPs also approved by narrow majority of 17 votes in favour to 16 against the decision to launch negotiations with the Council in view of reaching a first reading agreement by the end of this legislative term.

Parliament's negotiating team will meet its Council's counterparts on 26 March. Second round of trilateral negotiations (involving Parliament, Council and Commission) is planned for 1 April.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development

In the chair: Czesław Adam Siekierski (EPP, PL)

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