The Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce and the Estonian Farmers Federation have started a petition to draw the attention of the European Parliament to unequal treatment of Estonian farmers in the payment of EU farm subsidies.
The two organizations came up with the petition citing the draft of the EU's budget plan for 2021-2027 put forward by the European Commission, saying that under the proposed arrangement unequal treatment of Estonian farmers compared with farmers in other EU member states will continue.
"Although by 2027, Estonia will have been a member of the European Union for 23 years, under the European Commission's proposal direct support for our agriculture will continue to be smaller by about a quarter than the union's average and several times lower than the highest levels of support," said the board chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce, Roomet Sõrmus.
He said under the Commission's plan, our farmers will remain in unequal competition with agricultural producers in other member states for seven more years. This, according to the associations, is unfair and undermines the principle of equal treatment that is a fundamental principle of the European Union.
The manager of the Estonian Farmers Federation, Kerli Ats, said that the impact from unequal treatment reaches farmers and consumers alike in Estonia.
"While Estonian people are patriots of local food, unequal levels of support sometimes give an artificial price advantage to products from other countries. Therefore we are calling on farmers and consumers alike to put their signature under the petition for ending injustice," Ats said, adding that Estonia's ability to be self-sufficient for food was not an exclusively agricultural matter.
The petition recalls that the Council of the European Union decided already on Feb. 8, 2013 that the level of direct support for the farm sector must reach at least 196 euros per hectare in all member states by 2020. That promise has not been fulfilled, and the rate for Estonian farmers in 2020 will be lower by several tens of euros than said target.
Estonian farmers also describe as totally unacceptable a plan of the Commission to make major cuts to funding for the rural development fund.
"Effectively, the plan is to cut investments made in innovation, know-how and environmental protection," Sormus said. He said that lower rural development funding and agricultural support being significantly lower than the EU average also curb the outlooks and possibilities for the young people planning to enter the farm sector, as agriculture is not offering sufficient incomes and possibilities for the implementation of measures aimed at facilitating generation change in agriculture will be reduced.
The petition that is to be eventually submitted to the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions can be signed until Jan. 31.
Editor: Helen Wright