Statement of Food & Water Europe Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
The 7 September Agricultural Council showed once again that the fate of small and medium-size dairy farmers in the European Union is of little concern to governments or the European Commission.
While milk farmers across the EU sell their milk below production costs, and many face bankruptcy, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel prefers to save the 2008 mini reform of Common Agricultural Policy known as “health check,” indicating that governments are either incapable of standing up for their farmers or indifferent to their pleas.
Dramatic protests by milk farmers seen across the EU for over a year now may not convince the European Commission and governments that decisions dating back to 2003 to phase out of milk quotas by 2015 were wrong, but they do show the anger and desperation of the farming community. Milk quotas, already too high, will continue to increase by 1 percent every year because the Commission and agricultural ministers appear to prioritise a supply of cheap milk for big, unsustainable corporations over the survival of small and family farmers.
In doing so, the European Union is following the disastrous footsteps of the United States, where family based dairies have been replaced with intensive operations that can house thousands of cows, who never see daylight and cannot move.
The biggest tragedy of small and medium-sized dairy farmers in Europe and the United States is that they are not responsible for the global overproduction of milk, but they are hit by it much harder than large, corporate producers. Consumers everywhere pay as much for milk as they did before the crisis since big food companies such as Kraft and Nestle preserve and increase their profits.
Dismantling an effective and relatively inexpensive supply management tool such as milk quotas is hurting farmers and worse still, export refunds contribute to dumping in the developing world, hurting families there too, who would normally produce milk to ensure their survival but are now driven out of business.
Food and Water Europe, which supports family farming in Europe and across the globe, has long been aware that the approach taken by the European Union towards milk is wrong. We have written to Commissioner Fischer Boel asking her to freeze the quota indefinitely while finding ways to protect small and medium-size dairy farmers and continuing the investigation into anti-competitive practices of distributors and retailers of milk before it is too late. It is clear what needs to happen to rectify past mistakes, so reluctance to do so exposes the Commission to accusations of driving small farmers out of business by neglect.
Food & Water Europe, a nonprofit consumer organization, works to ensure clean water and safe food in the United States and around the world. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.
Contact: Gabriella Zanzanaini, Food and Water Europe, Brussels
[email protected], +32488409662