Drought-hit Finnish farmers won’t get EU aid, agriculture union says

Hit by a long, relentlessly dry summer season, Finland was denied the emergency agricultural aid - along with other Nordic and Baltic countries who applied.

File photo of grain harvest in Jyväskylä in July. Image: Simo Pitkänen / Yle

Finland will not receive agricultural crisis aid from the EU, Juha Marttila, the chair of the country’s largest farmers’ union, told news group Lännen Media.

Finland, along with Sweden, Denmark and the Baltic countries, applied for EU aid to help affected farmers deal with losses related to the drought but received a negative decision from the EU’s commissioner of agriculture, Phil Hogan.

According to Marttila, chair of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), Hogan said the problems regarding drought are so widespread that the EU does not have the resources to address them.

“The EU’s position is that everything that can be done has been done already,” Marttila told Lännen Media.

He said that he hopes Finnish lawmakers take the EU decision into consideration when they begin discussing emergency agricultural funding which will be settled when parliament hammers out next year’s budget.

“The EU’s message [on the matter] has created increased pressure on [budget] negotiations,” Marttila said.

Varying political support for domestic aid

Three major workers’ groups in Finland have voiced support for a government emergency aid package, according to agricultural sector paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (MT). Those groups include the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), and the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland (Akava),

There is also some political support for emergency aid among opposition MPs, particularly the Social Democrats and the Left Alliance. However the Greens’ speaker Touko Aalto is less enthusiastic about handing out the aid.

Aalto told MT it is not sustainable for the government to reimburse the industry for poor harvests and other losses using funds from the state budget.

A few weeks ago the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) estimated that this year's grain harvest in Finland will be some 2.8 million tons, which would be the lowest yield so far this millennium. The drought has caused such a shortage of livestock feed - for example hay for milking cows - that some farmers said they were considering taking some of their livestock to slaughter.

The institute estimated that nearly half of Finland’s grain harvests would be lost in regions hit hardest by this summer’s drought.