TALLINN - About 200 farmers from the Baltic countries were to gather at the building of the Council of the European Union in Brussels on Thursday to rally for just treatment of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian farmers in the EU's next budgetary period.
"Although the expectations of food consumers for agricultural products are effectively the same in all European Union member states, the compensations for Estonian farmers for meeting various requirements have been significantly lower than the average for many years. Unfortunately, our entrepreneurs are faced with an unfair competition situation also in the new budgetary period," said Roomet Sormus, board chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce.
According to Sormus, no easing is in sight when it comes to the requirements applied to farmers, which means that compensations smaller than those paid to farmers in the other member states will lead to an increase in Estonian farmers' debt burden, reduction in competitiveness and giving an artificial price advantage to the output of competitors.
"While the production of domestically produced food is the main task of farmers, they also make a contribution to preserving the vitality of rural areas, protect soil fertility, clean air and water, take care of biodiversity and beautiful landscapes," said Kerli Ats, head of the Estonian Farmers Federation.
"Strict obligations have been placed on agricultural producers starting with environmental protection and animal welfare and ending with easing of climate change. The provision of it has its price, which is why agricultural subsidies are being paid to agricultural producers," Ats said, describing it as extremely unfair and distorting for competition that the subsidies for Estonian farmers are much smaller than those paid to farmers in the old member states.
Representatives of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce and the Estonian Farmers Federation were to take part in a rally of Baltic farmers to be held at the building of the Council in Schuman Square in Brussels from 10 a.m. till noon on Thursday.
Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda were expected to meet with the farmers ahead of the meeting of the EU Council that will discuss the union's long-term budget for 2021-2027. In addition to the farmers' wish for a fair competition environment, the national leaders are to be handed an energy drink as a gift for the successful conduct of the tiresome negotiations on the budget.
President of the Council Charles Michel made a proposal last week to agree on the budget at a level of 1.074 percent of the union's GDP. In the new long-term budget, significant cuts are planned for the budget of the agricultural policy compared with the current budgetary period.
Plans are to move on with the harmonization of the levels of direct agricultural support under a formula whereby the difference between the current level for a member state and the level of 90 percent of the EU average would be reduced in six equal steps from 2022 onwards. Based on that formula, the level of direct support for Estonia would be smaller by almost a quarter than the EU average.