Thursday, 23 May 2024
BusinessPlanas proposes 18 measures to stop the rural crisis but farmers maintain...

Planas proposes 18 measures to stop the rural crisis but farmers maintain protests

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, has presented a package of 18 measures to agricultural organizations (UPA, COAG and Asaja) to try to stop rural protests. It is not an agreement. It’s a point and followed. Planas calls for the meetings that are scheduled for the coming weeks, such as the European Council of Agriculture Ministers on February 26, to continue later with the meetings with the sector, although in the meantime there will be others of a technical nature.

The meeting between the Executive and the main agricultural organizations took place after a tense day of protests, with the first tractor-trail through the center of Madrid since the mobilizations began. Planas has framed the meeting in the usual meetings between the Ministry and the field and has pointed out that “extremist sectors” have tried to take advantage of the protests. “I want to value the role of organizations in order to achieve concrete progress,” he said.

“The issues we have [sobre la mesa] “They affect both the European Union, the Government of Spain and the autonomous communities.” And, in this context, he has announced that “next Monday I will meet with the communities”, on the sidelines of the meeting in Brussels the following week.

Progress and proposals, but without agreement

“The meeting has been positive. We have managed to move forward. We have presented an 18-point package” on “the fundamental concerns” of agricultural organizations. “We plan to continue working next week, we have to wait for the Council on the 26th to be able to conclude this dialogue.”

Among the measures, the Law of the Chain. In the hours before the meeting, Planas had already been conciliatory with the requests of the field. On Wednesday he confirmed that the Ministry will reinforce the Food Chain Law, as the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, announced a few days ago during a Control Session in the Congress of Deputies. “We have proposed a State Food Information and Control Agency to increase the current inspection capacity,” he promised.

This legislation came into force a little over a year ago, to provide more stability in the commercial relationships that companies establish with farmers and ranchers, and entails inspections and sanctions for those who break the law. Fines that do not reach 200 during these 15 months and amount, in total, to just over 641,000 euros. An insufficient figure for the actors in the field, because it does not deter committing irregularities. In this sense, he has asked for the joint action of the communities, including those governed by the PP and Vox, parties that voted against the Chain Law.

This reinforcement involves updating the inspection plans of the future State Agency, “so that we can identify the sectors where ex officio inspections should preferably be carried out.” In addition, the totals of serious and very serious sanctions will be published. “I have heard that the sanctions are not relevant, but they are specific cases. I have understood the message. We are willing and it is legal, if a company or a person carries out several very serious infractions it can be published and it can be very educational.” Regarding how sanctions have to change, “nothing is excluded, but it has to be carefully thought out,” he justified and that “we must always protect the weakest link. If the fines are not enough, they will have to be reviewed.”

Regarding the future State Food Information and Control Agency, it will have more capacity and budget to investigate, but Planas also demands that agricultural organizations report when they see irregularities. “The Law works but the application must be improved,” he assumed.

Less bureaucracy

The second block of proposed measures is linked to simplification, to less bureaucracy. “It will be the monographic point on the 26th in Brussels,” the minister said. And changes to the CAP are proposed, in relation to crop rotation, in simplifying the administrative burden, such as the requirement to include geolocated photos or that small farmers have a lower paperwork burden.

There are more technical issues such as reducing the range of eco-schemes. “Spain will be able to execute 100% of the eco-scheme funds this year and other countries will not,” Planas indicated. Regarding the so-called “digital notebook”, which forces farmers to record their activity with mobile devices, he has assured that it is “fundamental, but it is viewed with concern because it is difficult to see. We agree that it can be voluntary, but we will encourage its implementation.”

Free trade agreements

“We are committed to defending in all forums the principle of reciprocity”, the mirror clauses, “what is prohibited here cannot be imported.” “I was the first to propose mirror clauses. France has also supported it, but we still do not have a majority, although we have the support of the European Parliament. We want it to be a reality and that the guidelines of the World Trade Organization (WTO) also make it possible,” he assured.

The EU will be urged to perform better in customs matters, reorganize border inspection in Spain, to improve controls. And when a permit is necessary for substances that are not authorized in the EU and the European Commission has not yet ruled, Spain will do so.

In addition, it has promised to reinforce the agricultural insurance plan by more than 284 million euros in 2024, depending on climatic circumstances. “We have made an effort with small and young farmers and we are committed to maintaining that support.” Planas has indicated that tax aid for agricultural diesel will be maintained – something that he had already indicated on other occasions – and support for extensive livestock farms will be expanded.

“Government and communities have to agree to reinforce the incorporation of young people, with European policies and convene a specific sectoral conference on this matter,” he concluded.

The mobilizations continue

The agrarian organizations view the meeting and the proposals positively, but they are not enough to stop the mobilizations.

The president of Asaja, Pedro Barato, has assured that they continue to be called and has urged that other ministries, such as the Ecological Transition, also be present in the meetings with the sector, and that the President of the Government also lend a hand in coordination.

Miguel Padilla, general secretary of COAG, has indicated that the meeting is a “step forward.” “Things that could not be done before are now viable,” he highlighted. For example, in the ability to improve the Law of the Chain or the simplification of bureaucracy, “but there has to be more.”

Montse Cortiñas, deputy secretary of organization of UPA, has stressed that what has been presented “are advances” that must be made concrete. “We cannot stop fighting, with demonstrations and negotiation,” also because of the role that the autonomous communities have. They welcome the reinforcement of the Chain Law, with more funds and more personnel for inspections. “Collective bargaining needs to be strengthened, because farmers are very dispersed.” In administrative simplification, “the minister has to put pressure on the European Commission,” she urged. “And it is urgent to talk about livestock, concentration and closures. “We have to analyze it.” “We have many issues left but the minister has heard the message,” Cortiñas summarized.

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