Agrifood brief: CAP, animal welfare, digitalisation among top priorities of German Presidency

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27- German presidency's priorities, young farmers, no-till

 

German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner laid out the German EU presidency’s agrifood priorities on Wednesday (15 July), and highlighted the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) negotiations as a key focus, alongside animal welfare labelling, an EU-wide nutritional label and digitalisation to make rural areas “fit for the future”.

Speaking before the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Klöckner acknowledged that difficult times required important decisions for the future of the EU. She said she was “looking forward to the task” of being an honest broker and playing her part in aligning the interests of the 27 member states.

She also highlighted the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic, emphasising the need to make the EU food system more resilient in the face of unexpected turmoil.

She said the aim is “to create proper conditions to ensure that our agriculture is stable and resistant to crises” and stressed the importance of the free movement of food and workers for a functional food supply.

Coupling direct payments

Klöckner put forward the idea of a stronger coupling of direct payments in the CAP with environmental measures, in an attempt to “dovetail” the post-2020 CAP with the EU’s new food policy, the Farm to Fork (F2F).

According to Klöckner, the CAP reform should be built around five main focuses: maintaining the same income for direct payments; a much more ambitious and climate-friendly approach; a unified implementation of the CAP across the EU; more simplification; and the preservation of the single market as the basis for any agriculture and food policy.

The CAP reform, she added, must not keep pressing the farmers and putting them into an impossible situation. “Because otherwise, that’s really shooting ourselves in the foot,” she said.

However, she admitted that her hands were tied on the timing of the CAP reform, as progress depends very closely on the negotiations on the EU’s next seven-year budget, the multi-annual financial framework (MFF).

“It’s about money. Once we have the budget, we’ll know better how and where we can invest,” she said.

EU-wide animal welfare label

A key theme of the German Presidency is set to be animal welfare, which is also a major focus of the F2F strategy and something that EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowksi has been regularly outspoken about.

Klöckner emphasised that animal welfare is “becoming more and more important for consumers” and said that she would push for a standardised animal welfare label across Europe.

In this way, she aspires to “uphold higher animal welfare standards,” placing a particular emphasis on ensuring that the sustainable option is “visible in supermarket aisles” and offering peace of mind for consumers that “spending more money means higher welfare standards”.

She highlighted that there were a number of other questions concerning animal welfare, including transport of live animals, saying that she will be closely following the work of the new Inquiry Committee on live transport, which was recently approved by the European Council.

Harmonised nutritional label

“Food policy issues are going to be high on the agenda in the next few months, for example, having extended nutritional labelling to better guide consumers in their purchasing or further measures to reduce food waste,” Klöckner said.

Asked about the form this labelling would take, an ongoing bone of contention amongst member states, she said that “harmonisation of law labelling is, of course, the best possible scenario if we can get that” but warned that waiting until there is agreement across the board may not necessarily be the best option.

She added that the EU may need to review the available labelling scheme options or do a “general evaluation of certain products, covering different criteria”.

Digitalisation ‘key’ for sustainablity

Digitalisation will also be high on the German agenda, with Klöckner saying that it holds the potential to “solve conflicts and find solutions” in agriculture, and adding that the digital transformation of the agricultural value chain is “the future”.

“Digitalisation is key if we want to have a sustainable, economically profitable, or economically sustainable agriculture,” she said.

(N.F. and G.F.)

Agrifood news this week

Kyriakides: Investments will match EU’s ambition on sustainable food systems
The EU’s determination to become a global leader in sustainability will be matched by investments in solutions to deliver on the commitments set out in the EU’s new food policy, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told EURACTIV’s Gerardo Fortuna in an exclusive interview.

MEP: Precision farming should be part of member states’ recovery plans
Precision farming practices, including digital farming, are the best way to deliver the EU’s strategic goals of being green, smart and safe and should be part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans of all member states, according to MEP Petros Kokkalis. Read more here. 

No-till farming: traditional ideas with new technologies to tackle current challenges
With soil health high on the EU policy agenda, EURACTIV spoke with US-based farmer Trey Hill, whose innovative approach to farming explores the potential of no-till agriculture, a practice that can contribute to the EU’s sustainability goals although some dismiss it as “technologically backward”.  Natasha Foote has more.

Young farmers need a toolbox ‘as broad as possible’ to achieve Farm to Fork goals
Ensuring that food producers are provided with the appropriate alternatives is the best way to make progress in meeting the specific objectives set in the new Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), according to young European farmers interviewed by EURACTIV. Gerardo Fortuna has the story.

EU still reflects over agri-innovation as UK mulls moves forward
While the EU considers the potential role of new innovative techniques to protect harvests from pests and diseases, on the other side of the Channel, the UK is getting ready to open the door to new gene-editing technologies post-Brexit. Learn more about this here.

Quote of the Week

“A strong Europe needs a strong agricultural policy, a common vision. We have a lot of strategies, and they must merge and interconnect together. These shouldn’t just co-exist – they need to be interlinked. We need to make sure that our farmers all over Europe are not overburdened with all the new requirements”

German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, speaking before the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Agrifood news from the Capitals

GERMANY
News broke this week that the Tönnies meatpacking plant has applied for wage reimbursement from the government for the time that it was forced to shut its doors. This move generated a wave of criticism, as the factory was forced to close down after a massive COVID-19 outbreak, which infected more than 1,500 employees and put the district back into lockdown. Many point to the company’s notoriously poor working and living conditions for its employees as a major reason behind the high level of infections. Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) showed little sympathy for the company, noting that the entire region was impacted by the closures. “The anger of the citizens about this will certainly not be diminished by the current behaviour,” she told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.  (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

AUSTRIA
Following criticism from the European Commission on the frequency of errors, Austria’s official feed inspections will be going entirely digital, the National Council has decided. A 2018 EU audit report showed that the country’s current paper-based procedures were prone to errors and led to inadequate inspection data. Before the National Council, Agriculture Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) made the case for digitalisation, saying that the current system is out-of-date. All parties in the legislative body viewed the move as a positive development. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

FRANCE
During a live interview on France’s Bastille Day (14 July), French President Emmanuel Macron called for European food sovereignty. Asked about the citizens’ convention for ecological transition, he spoke in favour of farmers, saying they are “not the enemy of animal welfare and farming, of healthy food,” saying that France’s food is “healthy and has an excellent agricultural model”. But he committed to building “agricultural sovereignty,” saying that currently France imports most of its proteins but is able to produce them nationally and in Europe.  (Anne Damiani | EURACTIV.fr)

ITALY
According to the Italian millers’ association, the national production of durum wheat fell by 2.5% to 3.9 million tonnes this year compared to 2019. In particular, the output of the leading producer region, Puglia, has contracted by a quarter due to drought. The government is establishing a durum wheat fund that will allocate €10 million every year in the next three years to cope with this reduction in the cereal sector. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)

UK
Beef farmers have written to the government urging them to create a campaign to encourage restaurants, cafes and pubs to source their food only from British producers, according to Farming UK. National Beef Association interim CEO, Neil Shand said that it “would be a way of showing the country’s appreciation to those who have worked tirelessly to feed the nation if the government were to apply some pressure to the pubs and restaurants who will benefit from the extra funding.” (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

IRELAND
Dara Calleary has been appointed as the new Agriculture Minister after his predecessor, Barry Cowen, was sacked from the role this week after refusing a request by Taoiseach Micheál Martin to face questions on his drink-driving record. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

POLAND
The incumbent President Andrzej Duda is receiving unrivaled support among farmers, with the Ipsos’ latest poll showing that 81.4% of farmers support Duda. This support has risen by almost 10% since the last round of voting. (Mateusz Kucharczyk| EURACTIV.pl)

On our radar

The European Commission launched a public consultation on the common agricultural policy (CAP)’s impact on natural resources, including biodiversity, soil and water on Thursday (9 July). The consultation aims to gather information and feedback from stakeholders and citizens on the effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance of the current CAP tools related to natural resources, as well as their coherence with EU action in other areas and the added value of these tools being implemented at the EU level.

The European Commission appointed Michael Scannell as Deputy Director-General at the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development on Wednesday (15 July).

Events 

17 July – DG ENER is holding an online wokshop on “Reducing methane emissions: Opportunities and barriers in waste and agriculture through biogas production”. More information here.

20 July – EU agriculture and fisheries ministers will hold their first Council meeting under the German presidency. This will also be the first physical meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more details, see here. 

22 July – Agriculture & Progress are holding a webinar on “Plant Protection, Innovative Cultivation & Production, Sustainability: Challenges in Practice which Decision-Makers Need to Understand”. Learn more here. 
 

Please note that this will be the last Agrifood brief for the summer, but we will be back in September. We hope everyone has an enjoyable summer break!

 

 

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