Good news for Europe’s farmers grappling with the difficulties of extreme droughts. The European Commission has announced they will be able to receive their direct and rural development payments in advance and will be granted more flexibility to use land that would normally not be used for production, in order to feed their animals.

“I am very concerned about these prolonged climatic developments,” said Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan. “I have been in contact with a number of ministers from affected countries to discuss the situation and get up-to-date assessments of its impact. The Commission, as always, is ready to support farmers affected by drought using a number of instruments, including higher advance payments, derogations from greening requirements and state aid.

“The Common Agricultural Policy already provides a safety net for farmers who have to deal with unpredictable events. I am encouraging all Member States to look into all possible actions and measures provided for in our legislation,” he added.

According to a Commission press release, two specific decisions have been taken to help farmers deal with droughts, in addition to support under the existing Common Agricultural Policy legislation.

The first is that farmers will be able to receive up to 70% of their direct payment and 85% of payments under rural development already as of mid-October 2018 instead of waiting until December to improve their cash flow situation.

The second is that derogations from specific greening requirements, namely crop diversification and ecological focus area rules on land lying fallow, to allow such land to be used for the production of animal feed.

Under existing agricultural state aid rules, aid of up to 80% of the damage caused by drought (or up to 90% in Areas of Natural Constraint) can be provided, subject to certain specific conditions. The purchase of fodder can qualify for aid as either material damage or income loss.

Compensation for damage can also be granted without the need to notify the Commission (the so-called “de minimis aid”). EU member states may grant aid of up to €15,000 per farmer over three years.