René Souchon (PES/FR), President of the Auvergne Regional Council and Committee of the Regions (CoR) rapporteur for the phasing-out of the milk quota system in the EU, attended yesterday's conference on The EU dairy sector: developing beyond 2015. The conference focused on the recent study by a group of independent experts entitled Analysis of the future developments in the dairy sector. Mr Souchon's presence at this event follows on from the invitation issued by Commissioner Dacian Cioloş at the CoR plenary session in May during the vote on the Committee opinion on "milk quotas: a soft landing".
René Souchon, President of the Auvergne Regional Council, welcomed Mr Cioloş's comments which augured well for better anticipation and management of any crises in the dairy sector. Nonetheless, the studies had been made available very much at the last moment, which inevitably resulted in a less well-informed debate, said the former French agriculture minister.
The conclusion presented by the group of experts confirmed the CoR's concerns as set out in its opinion on the phasing-out of the milk quota system: production in the most intensively farmed areas is becoming ever more concentrated, undermining environmental and territorial cohesion objectives. Mr Souchon also deplored the weakness of the territorial impact assessment.
Mr Souchon noted that the group of experts rejects all proposals to regulate supply as being too difficult to implement and ineffective, contrary to the studies carried out by the European Milk Board and the Movement for a World Agricultural Organization which prove the opposite. The experts recommend large-scale use of the Common Agricultural Policy's second pillar (rural development) in order to deal with the fallout of the abolition of quotas in disadvantaged regions. However, the CoR rapporteur considers that "we are fooling ourselves if we think that the second pillar will be able to meet these new needs, when its budget has been cut and its remit extended."
The rapporteur therefore asks the European Commission to give serious thought to the various proposals to regulate production and to implement specific measures for disadvantaged regions, mountain regions and regions with no alternative to milk production (the Baltic countries). The objective is to enable these regions to cope with the increasing volatility of milk prices, to ensure a steady income for all producers and to preserve rural communities throughout the EU.
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