Riigikogu committee to establish option for greater agricultural aid

MP Heiki Hepner (Isamaa).
MP Heiki Hepner (Isamaa). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Rural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu has decided to establish the opportunity for Estonian farmers to receive de minimis agricultural aid in the maximum amount allowed by European Union law — €25,000, in lieu of the current €20,000.

"This summ, which may seem small at first, is rather important as, in practice, there have been cases where beekeepers have had part of part of the aid sum left unused because they encountered the €20,000 limit," Rural Affairs Committee member Heiki Hepner (Isamaa) told BNS. "This can be the case particularly in the event of bears plundering apiaries."

According to Hepner, damage caused by game animals is subject to compensation, but once the limit is reached, the prescribed compensation cannot be paid.

"In the case of rural businesses — and especially small businesses, of which beekeepers make up a large portion — every euro counts," he added.

"Due to its relatively simple set of rules, de minimis aid in agriculture is often the most appropriate legal basis for granting aid, for example, in situations here EU state aid rules do not provide for opportunities to grant aid or the payment of support as state aid is administratively too difficult or costly to implement," Rural Affairs Committee chairman Tarmo Tamm (Center) was quoted by Riigikogu spokespeople as saying.

Tamm explained that the primary limitation of de minimis aid is that its payment is linked to a ceiling set by EU law within which aid may be granted to an agricultural producer. There is also a cap on the total amount of de minimis aid granted to a member state.

Total amount to increase

Rural Affairs Committee deputy chairman Urmas Kruuse (Reform) said that the total amount of payable aid will also change.

"We will raise the maximum possible total sum of de minimis aid for agriculture — to €13.7 million instead of the current €11.4 million over three fiscal years," Kruuse said in a press release, adding that this aid is especially important for overcoming crisis periods.

Business owners can check the balance of de minimis aid in the state aid and de minimis aid register.

In March 2019, an EU regulation on de minimis aid for agriculture entered into force that raised the ceiling for de minimis aid per business from the current €15,000 to €20,000 and the ceiling imposed on the Estonian state from €8.1 million to €11.4 million. Both rates are for a period of three years. These higher rates became directly applicable in Estonia pursuant to EU law.

However, member states can further increase the maximum aid amount to €25,000 per business and the state's ceiling to €13.7 million over three fiscal years.  According to EU law, decisions regarding the application of these higher rates have been left to member states to make.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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