EU States Approve Drought Package to Help Struggling Farmers

A water canon of the German police waters trees in Wuppertal, western Germany, on July 24, 2019. (Claudia Otte/dpa via AP)

(CN) – In the wake of the most brutal heatwaves Europe has ever seen and drought conditions that stretch from the Mediterranean Sea deep into the Arctic Circle, EU member states have signed off on support measures for farmers who have lost crops and can’t feed their animals.

“Since the beginning of the extreme climatic events, we have been closely following the situation and are ready to support our farmers,” agriculture and rural development commissioner Paul Hogan said in a statement Wednesday. “The commission has been in close contact with all member states throughout, and we have reacted swiftly when necessary. These measures should relieve European farmers financially and protect them against a shortage of fodder for their livestock.”

For now, farmers can expect to see higher advance payments to improve cash flow and a relaxation of the EU’s green farming protocols so farmers can grow crops to feed their animals. Specifically, farmers have the option of fallowing their land and counting that as a either a crop or part of their ecological focus area requirement, sowing catch crops to feed their animals and shortening the minimum periods for catch crops so they can get their winter crops planted on time.

The support measures approved by member states will be formally adopted in September when lawmakers return from their summer break.

Much of the EU has been broiled by successive heatwaves this summer, including a week-long event at the end of June that stretched from Spain to central Europe and saw France’s all-time highest recorded temperature – 114.8 degrees in Verargues on June 28.

A second heatwave at the end of July broke all-time records in Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greenland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where thousands of farm animals died when ventilation systems failed.

According to the European Drought Observatory, most of Spain and large parts of France and Germany are at some level of drought. Swathes of northern Norway and Sweden as well as Finland are also in drought, with much of the region at “alert” status – the EU’s highest level of drought, where vegetation stress from lack of moisture is visible.

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