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High and dry Swiss farmers appeal for help against the heat

Swiss President Alain Berset and a cow

Swiss President Alain Berset offering some moral support to a cow, August 1, 2018.

(Keystone)

As temperatures continue to rise and dry conditions persist, Swiss farmers are calling on the government to introduce emergency measures to offset the problems for agricultural production.

Speaking to newspaper Le Temps (in French)external link on Saturday, Radical-Liberal politician and president of the Swiss Farmers’ Unionexternal link Jacques Bourgeois said that the situation in some areas is critical due to the historically prolonged dry spell seen in Switzerland and much of Europe.

“Crops are suffering heavily, especially potatoes, corn, and sugar beet,” he said. The drought-like conditions are certain to lead to large reductions in harvest sizes.

“As for cattle, water is becoming scarce in certain areas and farmers are being forced to start using silage planned for winter, which will be found lacking at that point,” he said.

Indeed, as the Federal weather service raised the heatwave warning to “dangerous” across much of south-west Switzerland, Friday saw canton Vaud follow St Gallen in announcing that army helicopters would be used from next week to carry water to thirsty cows in remote locations, often at altitude

Ways to help

As another emergency measure, the Farmers’ Union is calling for a moratorium on import duties on silage, which currently stands at 3CHF ($3.02) per 100 kilos; they are also considering a similar demand for customs duty on corn.

More flexible aid should also be offered to troubled farmers, Bourgeois said, for example by allowing them more time to pay back investment credit. Prices should also be adapted to take stock of the current situation, for example by raising slightly the retail price of milk.

In the more medium-term, Bourgeois wants an adaptation of framework conditions regulating the Swiss agricultural sector to take account of such “extreme natural risks”.

He plans to raise the issues in parliament next Tuesday.

SDA-ATS/dos

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