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Agriculture and rural development

Supporting the agriculture and food sectors amid Coronavirus

In the wake of the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission swiftly launched these exceptional measures as an initial reaction to support farmers and food producers, and stabilise agricultural markets.

A strong food security

Following the outbreak of Coronavirus, the European Union’s agri-food sector is showing its resilience and continues to provide Europeans with high quality and safe food. Nonetheless, farmers and producers are facing difficulties and increasing pressure.

Maintaining food security remains one of the European Commission’s priorities. Thus, it has been in close contact with EU countries and sectoral organisations to closely monitor the situation.

To support all actors involved, the Commission has taken the necessary actions.

Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic’s potential impact on food security, in the context of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission has prepared a contingency plan to ensure food supply and food security in the EU in times of crisis. To support this initiative, the Commission undertook a targeted consultation of actors in the food supply chain from 1 March to 3 May 2021.

An efficient food supply chain

Green lanes to keep food flowing across Europe

The Commission is coordinating closely with EU countries to ensure a functioning single market for goods by creating green lanes. These green lanes, based on designated key border crossing-points, will have border crossing checks that will not exceed 15 minutes. Passage is now granted for all goods, including agri-food products.

Seasonal workers qualified as ‘critical workers’ to secure food sector support

The Commission published practical guidelines to ensure that, within the EU, mobile workers who qualify as critical in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic can reach their workplace. Seasonal workers are critical to the agricultural sector in terms of harvesting, planting and tending functions, especially in the current season.

Direct support to farmers and rural areas

€200,000 – loans or guarantees for operational costs

Flexibility in the use of financial instruments under rural development

Farmers and other rural development beneficiaries will be able to benefit from loans or guarantees to cover operational costs of up to €200,000 at favourable conditions, such as very low interest rates or favourable payment schedules.

€7,000 per farmer – €50,000 per SME

Commission proposes new rural development measure

A new temporary measure would allow EU countries with remaining rural development funds to pay farmers and small agri-food businesses in 2020. This should provide immediate relief to those most impacted by the crisis. EU countries can offer support of up to €7,000 per farmer and €50,000 per small and medium enterprise (SME).

70% and 85% – advances for CAP payments

Higher advances of payments

To increase the cash flow of farmers, the Commission will increase the advances for common agricultural policy (CAP) of income supports (from 50% to 70%) and certain rural development payments (from 75% to 85%). Farmers will start receiving these advances from mid-October.

Up to €125,000 for state aid

Higher state aid possible for farmers and food processing companies

Under the Commission’s temporary framework for state aid, farmers can now benefit from a maximum aid of €100,000 per farm. Food processing and marketing companies can benefit from a maximum of €800,000.

This amount can be topped up by ‘de minimis’ aid. This type of national support specific to the agricultural sector can be granted without prior approval from the Commission, and has a ceiling of €20,000 (and €25,000 in specific cases).

Exceptional market measures

Private storage aid

To stabilise the market by temporarily reducing available supply, the Commission will support private storage aid for dairy (skimmed milk powder, butter, cheese) and meat (beef, sheep and goat meat) products. This measure allows the temporary withdrawal of products from the market for a minimum of 2 to 3 months, and a maximum period of 5 to 6 months.

Temporary derogation from EU competition rules

The Commission will authorise the derogation from certain EU competition rules, available under Article 222 of the common markets organisation regulation, for the milk, flowers and potatoes sectors. It allows operators to self-organise and implement market measures at their level for a maximum period of 6 months. For example, the milk sector will be allowed to collectively plan milk production and the flower and potatoes sector will be allowed to withdraw products from the market. Storage by private operators will also be allowed. Consumer price movements will be monitored closely to avoid adverse effects.

Flexibility for market support programme

The Commission will allow flexibility in the implementation of market support programmes for wine, fruits and vegetables, table olives and olive oil, apiculture and the EU’s school scheme (covering milk, fruit and vegetables). This flexibility aims to limit available supply in each sector to lead to a rebalancing of markets. In addition, it will allow the re-orientation of funding priorities towards crisis management measures.

CAP flexibility

EU countries and farmers are facing practical difficulties in meeting certain requirements under the CAP and the Commission aims to help through a range of concrete measures.

Extension of deadline for CAP payment applications

The deadline will be extended by a month, offering more time to farmers to fill in their application for both income support and rural development payments.

Fewer farm on-the-spot checks

EU countries normally carry out on-the-spot checks to ensure that CAP beneficiaries meet eligibility requirements. However, in the current exceptional circumstances, it is crucial to minimise physical contact between farmers and inspectors. The Commission has therefore introduced rules allowing on-farm visits to be temporarily replaced by alternative sources of evidence, such as satellite imagery or geo-tagged photos. This measure ensures reliable checks while respecting restriction of movements and minimising physical contacts between farmers and inspectors.

Legal bases

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/591 opening a temporary exceptional private storage aid scheme for certain cheese

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/592 on temporary exceptional measures to address the market disturbance in the fruit and vegetables and wine sectors

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/593 on market stabilisation measures in the potatoes sector

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/594 on market stabilisation measures in the plants and flowers sector

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/595 on granting aid for private storage for sheepmeat and goatmeat

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/596 on granting aid for private storage for fresh and chilled meat of bovine animals

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/597 on granting aid for private storage for butter

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/598 on granting aid for private storage for skimmed milk powder

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/599 on the planning of production in the milk and milk products sector


7 APRIL 2020
Coronavirus: emergency response to support the agriculture and food sectors