Czech dairy farmers took to the highways Monday morning to bring the nation’s traffic to a snail’s pace for two hours. Protesting the critically low purchase price of milk - and what they see as a lack of political will to do anything about it – nearly 2,000 dairy farmers overran 20 highways in seven regions. It was the second protest in as many months, aimed at forcing what the farmers’ say is a desperate situation into the public eye.
The head of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba, told Czech TV on Sunday that further drops in the prices of milk would force farmers to cull as many as 20,000 cows. Up to 2,000 jobs might then be lost as a result. Mr Veleba said that due to low milk prices, Czech farmers will this year get some 4.5 billion crowns, or more than 240 million US dollars, less than in 2008. Farmers are planning to block Czech motorways on Monday as part of a nationwide protest against low milk prices.
Czech farmers are going to block motorways around the country on June 29 in protest against low milk prices, the head of the Czech Agricultural Chamber, Jan Veleba, told the press on Friday. Czech farmers demand help from the government and the EU, and want fixed minimum milk prices to be introduced.Mr Veleba said several hundred farmers are likely to join in the protest but did not disclose which parts of the Czech highway system will be blocked.
The Czech Republic has taken a step against the anti-smoking flow in the rest of Europe. While anti-smoking bans have spread across the continent in recent years, Czech MPs have proposed a relaxation of the current rules for smoking in pubs and restaurants. Anti-smoking groups say they have caved in to pressure from the powerful tobacco lobby.
EU agriculture ministers meeting in Brno on Tuesday pledged to tackle the question of unequal subsidies to old and new member states, but made no commitment to speed up the process. Farmers from the EU newcomer states, who joined the block in or after 2004, get lower subsidies than the old members and have been calling for this discrepancy to be removed by 2010, instead of 2013 as planned. The 2013 target date for equal payments was something the newcomers agreed to in accession talks.
An informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers is underway in the Moravian city of Brno. The main issue on the agenda is a controversy over the current division of subsidies within the block and plans for equal payments after 2013. The EU states who joined in 2004 complain that five years after EU accession they are entitled to only 60 percent of the subsidies afforded to old members. Czech farmers say their livelihood is threatened due to unequal competition within the block and together with farmers in Poland and Hungary are pushing for equal payments before 2013. The governments of newcomer states are free to top up farming subsidies by another 30 percent from state coffers, but their generosity depends on the state of individual countries’ finances.
Agriculture ministers of 17 EU countries arrived in Brno on Sunday for a three-day informal conference on the future of the bloc’s agriculture policy, held as part of the Czech EU presidency. Among other issues, the ministers will debate the system of direct payments to agriculture producers in individual EU countries. The system currently grants higher subsidies to farmers from the old EU states, which is something the Czech Republic and several other new members of the EU would like to change.
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