Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers approves new urgent measures to support farmers and stockbreeders and alleviate the effects of the drought

Council of Ministers - 2023.5.11

Moncloa Palace, Madrid

The Council of Ministers has approved urgent support measures for the agricultural sector and water supply to address the prolonged drought situation and the worsening conditions in the primary sector due to the war in Ukraine.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, stressed that the initiatives approved, which amount to €784 million, extend those already adopted during the legislature.

Planas outlined the new measures, which aim to alleviate the burdens on farmers and stockbreeders that the drought has caused, and to regulate the functioning of agri-food production to guarantee supply and prevent further price rises. The minister underlined that the decisions adopted are the outcome of dialogue and meetings held with the autonomous communities and agricultural organisations and cooperatives.

Direct aid to the primary sector

Luis Planas has indicated that the budget earmarked for subsidising the contracting of agricultural insurance, "one of the fundamental instruments for responding to contingencies such as drought", has once again been increased by almost €40.5 million. This envelope will enable the subsidising of up to 70% of the cost of policies already taken out that include drought risk in rainfed extensive arable crops, including olives, wine grapes, almond trees, hazelnut trees, kiwi, blackthorn, alfalfa, sugar beet and fodder maize.

The Government will also allocate €355 million to beef, sheep and goat meat and milk producers in compensation for the increase in the cost of feed and other inputs.

The beekeeping sector will receive direct aid amounting to €5 million, given that, as the minister said, the heat is affecting pollination and reducing honey production.

The agricultural sectors will benefit from a direct aid fund of €276.7 million. Planas has assured that his department will identify the recipients most in need.

Fiscal measures

In the area of taxation, the Council of Ministers has decided to exempt from property tax (IBI) the properties of agricultural and livestock holding owners who, in the financial year 2023, will suffer a reduction in the net yield from agricultural activities of at least 20 % in areas with natural limitations, or 30 % in other areas. The measure will cost the Treasury €53 million.

The minister explained that some 270,000 farmers and stockbreeders will benefit, and will be able to apply for the tax refund at the end of this year. He also pointed out that aid received under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) eco-schemes is exempt from the payment of personal income tax and corporation tax.

Liquidity support measures

The Government is considering a further €20 million increase in the allocation for credit subsidies under the ICO-MAPA-SAECA credit line, which can reach up to 15 % of the loan principal. "These are subsidised loans in great demand among our farmers and stockbreeders, dedicated to productive continuity between seasons," said the minister.

The line of financing for guarantees from the Sociedad Anónima Estatal de Caución Agraria (SAECA), needed to obtain these loans, has also been increased by €3 million.

Luis Planas also announced that the exceptional measure to reduce to 10 the number of farmhands needed to access the agricultural subsidy in the autonomous communities of Andalusia and Extremadura will be extended until 31 December 2023.

Flexibility of the CAP

With regard to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the deadline for applying for aid has been extended to 30 June, a measure that will benefit some 600,000 farmers and stockbreeders, according to the Minister for Agriculture.

The entry into force of the digital logbook is also being staggered in four phases, which may be delayed until 1 January 2024 or 2025, depending on the type.

More, better managed, higher quality water

Of the total investments agreed today, €1.4 billion will come from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge.

The third vice-president and head of this ministry, Teresa Ribera, underlined that "Spain is a country used to facing periods of drought, but because of climate change we are witnessing a much greater incidence", requiring both structural and "immediate relief" measures. Ribera defended that "it is not enough to offer more water: We need to manage demand, promote the efficient use of the resource and work on quality aspects", first and foremost for urban supply, "a fundamental right of all Spaniards", and to attend to the sectors that depend most on its availability.

The reduction in rainfall in recent years and, in particular, in the first quarter of 2023 has led to a "delicate" situation in the Guadalquivir, Andalusian and inland basins of Catalonia, with "special vigilance" needed in the Guadiana, Júcar and Segura basins, the vice-president explained.

Water reuse and support for irrigators

First, the initiatives agreed today complete the regulatory framework to further increase water reuse, in line with European legislation. While currently 10% of urban water is reused, the target is to double this percentage by 2027.

Second, to support irrigators whose water allocations have been reduced, they are exempted from the regulation canon and the water use tariff. The exemption will be 50% if the endowment is reduced by 40-60%, and 100% if the reduction in the endowment is greater.

Immediate actions and new infrastructure

The Council of Ministers has also earmarked €35.5 million for immediate actions in the basins affected by the drought to guarantee supply, including emergency pumping and supply connections.

In addition, the state is assuming responsibility for works of general interest which, in principle, correspond to regional administrations. The third vice-president pointed out that these are "priority works" to build desalination plants in Malaga and Levante Almeriense (€200 million) and in Catalonia (€220 million), and to intensify water reuse in the province of Alicante (€224 million).

This is also the case, Ribera pointed out, of some interventions in the Doñana area. With the aim of contributing to the rapid replacement of groundwater pumping supplying Matalascañas, the central government will facilitate the connection works between the Tinto and Piedras rivers and this enclave, and will also authorise a water concession of three cubic hectometres of water per year.

The third vice-president indicated that the government is also going to bring forward some very significant works that were included in the Segura, Júcar and Tajo hydrological plans. Direct management is entrusted to the Sociedad Estatal de Aguas de las Cuencas Mediterráneas (Acuamed), which will have a special agreement to activate investment in photovoltaic parks, and to determine a maximum selling price to users of desalinated water.

Worker protection

In the area of occupational risk prevention, the executive has established the obligation to provide for measures to preserve the health of workers against any risk related to adverse weather phenomena, including extreme temperatures. These measures will be based on an occupational risk assessment, which will take into account the characteristics of the task and the individual characteristics of the worker.

The text includes a ban on carrying out certain tasks during the hours when these weather phenomena occur. In addition, when weather agencies issue orange or red warnings, working conditions, including reduced or modified working hours, will need to be adapted.

Also in relation to health, the Minister for Territorial Policy and Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, reported that the Public Health Commission agreed on 27 April to bring forward by 15 days the implementation of the National Plan of Preventive Actions on the Effects of Temperatures on Health. It will thereby begin on 15 May and run until 15 September.

Discounted bus and train tickets for young people

Isabel Rodríguez also reported that the government has regulated the ticket discounts of up to 90%, announced at last Tuesday's Council of Ministers, to make it easier for young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to travel on state-owned trains and buses this summer, both in Spain and in Europe.

The government estimates that the rebates could be of benefit for 12.5 million trips made by young people in Spain during the three months of the discounts and double the sale of Interrail passes.

Non official translation