EU seeks to protect farmers from unfair trade practices

BRUSSELS — The European Union executive is seeking to protect farmers by imposing fines on retailers and supermarket chains using unfair trade practices.

EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan said Thursday the plan was "about giving voice to the voiceless" as small-scale farmers across the EU have struggled to eke out a living when faced with the negotiating power of major food conglomerates. He didn't give details.

In recent years milk farmers and others have complained about having to sell below production costs, threatening their livelihood. The EU Commission said farmers are also faced with late payments, last-minute cancellations and unilateral contract changes.

The Copa-Cogeca farm union said that of the value of farm products, farmers now only get 21 percent, with the rest going to processors and retailers.

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