Spanish Minister of Agriculture Proposes 43 Measures in Response to Primary Sector’s Demands

Environment - April 8, 2024

Over the last few months, Spain has witnessed the ire of farmers and the primary sector, with a series of mass protests and tractor marches across Spain, notably in the capital city of Madrid. The primary sector was protesting against the intense difficulties it is facing, partially caused by climate adversities and international conditions, but in any case exacerbated by the disastrous policies that the national, regional and European Governments have consistently implemented.

In this sense, the protestors demanded action from Government, including measures to protect European food sovereignty and European production in the face of imports and unfair competition from third countries, improvements and rigorous implementation of the Spanish Law on the food chain, which prohibits the different levels of the food value chain from being forced to sell their produce at a loss; a reduction of bureaucratic red tape, as well as a fundamental reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), notably in relation to its provisions and obligations relating to the environment. In particular, farmers vehemently oppose the CAP’s so-called ‘eco-schemes’, which farmers must implement to receive subsidies but which impose unacceptable environmental conditions that hamper food production and farmers’ profitability.

Although the protests in Spain have fizzled out, farmers’ anger certainly remains, and despite token gestures from politicians, the fundamental, structural problems that farmers have pointed out have not been solved or even addressed. Politicians, in their offices in Madrid and Brussels, remain completely detached from the social and economic reality in the countryside. This week, the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, has proposed a document with 43 measures to primary sector organisations, but they are too little too late.

The 43 measures that Planas has proposed, and which are distributed in 7 clusters, include the following. Firstly, Planas proposes to promote measures at an EU level in relation to the CAP. Specifically, the Minister pledged to promote a simplification, reduction of bureaucratic red tape  and a flexibilization of the CAP, including to give greater flexibility to and simplify the criteria for the application of eco-schemes.

In relation to the international stage, Planas also committed to defending ‘mirror clauses’ and fair competition in international trade. In this regard, the Minister has proposed the creation of a working group to monitor primary sector imports and exports and to reinforce border controls on third country imports. He also pledged that the Government will defend that, when trade deals are negotiated in international fora, imported products are subject to the same conditions that are imposed on producers in the EU.

On another highly salient issue for farmers, the Ministry is proposing to strengthen Spain’s aforementioned Law on the Food Chain, as well as to reinforce the inspection capacity and competencies of the AICA, the Spanish Agency of Food Control and Information. More significantly though, Planas has proposed to also elevate this issue to the European level, as he wants the prohibition of sales at a loss to be tackled at a European level too.

As far as economic assistance is concerned, a noteworthy measure in Planas’ document is the Minister’s proposed to launch a 700 million euros line of credits, in collaboration with ICO (the Spanish Official Credit Institute), that would be distributed the following way: 500 million euros to guarantee credit operations aimed at farmers, and 200 million euros for young farmers and generational turnover.

Furthermore, concerning taxes and fuel levies, the Minister of Agriculture proposes to maintain the reduced rate for the levy on agricultural diesel, which would imply a tax benefit of 400 million euros, and also deduction of 35% on the fuel bill for agricultural use and 15% on fertilizer. The Ministry also proposes to reduce the net return to 15% for 2023 as far as income tax is concerned.

When praising his own disposition to tackle the issue, however, Minister Planas inadvertently slipped up. He accused the right-wing parties VOX and PP of not desiring there to be an agreement between the Government and farmers, and that they “want the protests to continue at least until the June EU elections”. However, what Planas failed to realise is that this tacitly proves that right-wing parties offer a more effective response to farmers’ demands, and that farmers’ plight has in large part been exacerbated by the Spanish left-wing Government and the European Commission grand coalition’s policies.