Baltic farmers sing for EU budget equality

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This is traditional Baltic music. The singers are farmers from from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
As European leaders gather on Thursday to discuss the next long-term EU budget, Baltic farmers travelled to Brussels to protest against what they believe is an unfair treatment from the EU. The agricultural funding they get currently is much less than the EU average.

‘The main message of our protest today is the farmers from the three baltic countries gathered here to protest peacefully. We will be singing traditional songs in relation to the summit and the decision made about the MFF. We hope that this time we will be heard and the political decision will be made in fairness with the Baltic farmers in relation to the direct payments’, said Board Member of the Lithuanian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives Mindaugas Maciulevi?ius.

We understand equal payments are not possible, because I understand that farmers from other EU countries don’t want to see their payments decreased. But again, it is not fair if we receive 2 or 3 times lower payments per hectare’, said Latvian minister for Agriculture Laimdota Straujuma.

All farmers across Europe operate within the single market and need to follow the same EU rules. But when it comes to budget allocations, there is a significant gap between older and newer members.

Baltic farmers receive less than €100 per hectare. Farmers from the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, more than €400.

‘Our farmers don’t want differences between direct payments per hectares because costs are nearly the same but payments are two or three times lower. (…) We have over 60000 very small farmers and I don’t see any possibility for growth for them if the continue receiving the smallest direct payments with the same costs. Again, for 7 years. It’s not acceptable’, said Latvian minister for Agriculture Laimdota Straujuma.

‘All farmers across the EU have to obey the same animal welfare, environmental and food safety conditions and regulations. This regulations you need to invest as a farmer huge amounts of money and the direct payments are a safety net for the investment. So we have to be competitive’, said Board Member of the Lithuanian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives Mindaugas Maciulevi?ius.
The coalition believes that unless current inequalities are addressed in the CAP reform, agriculture risks disappearing in the Baltic.
‘We are losing our rural population towards western countries where the farmers are able to pay bigger salaries. We are losing our young people in the countryside, our schools, cultural centers, etc. If we lose them we won’t be able to rebuilt it again’, said Board Member of the Lithuanian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives Mindaugas Maciulevi?ius.

Earlier in November, the Latvian Prime Minister already threatened to veto any potential agreement on the EU budget if their demands are ignored.

‘Back in November, there was a proposal to slightly lift the level of direct payments. But the size of that would only be 70% of the EU average. But what is more important is when it is going to happen. The proposal was for 2020, which is another 6 years. But we can see that the harm is being done at the moment and we would like to stop it as soon as possible’, said Board Member of the Lithuanian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives Mindaugas Maciulevi?ius.

The farmers already came to Brussels in November calling for bigger direct payments that put them closer to the EU average.

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