Agrifood Brief: FinalCAPdown (this time for real)

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Yes, we know. We’ve teased you time and time again with the promise of a #FinalCAPdown.

But this time, it’s the real deal.

After months and months of discussions, reversals, late-night talks and last-minute deals and not one, not two, but three #finalCAPdowns, the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is finally facing its very last hurdle.

Informally wrapped up in June, adopted by the Council of EU agri-food ministers three days later and provisionally approved by the European Parliament’s AGRI Committee in September, the CAP is now awaiting its final green light from European lawmakers, who will be coming together for a plenary session in Strasbourg next week.

While there is little doubt that Parliament will approve the package on Tuesday (23 November), controversy around the EU’s biggest policy remains alive and well.

Disappointed by a CAP proposal that in their eyes fails to adequately address the pressing issues of climate change and biodiversity loss, members of the Greens/EFA have voiced their opposition to the deal.

German Green MEP Martin Häusling, the shadow rapporteur for the national strategic plans (NSPs), told the press that while he personally has no illusions as to the outcome of next week’s vote, “the Greens will jointly vote against the CAP reform, as well as a lot of MEPs from the left and German social democrats.”

In an online petition, Green MEPs from several EU countries continued calling on their colleagues to ‘vote this CAP down.’

“We are in a climate emergency”, the authors of the petition declared.

“We need to take action now to combat climate change, to protect biodiversity and farming families for generations to come”, they stressed, declaring that “we can’t allow the European Common Agricultural Policy to go on wrecking our planet until the end of 2027.”

On the majority side of things, MEPs have adopted an altogether different tone.

“We have the obligation to vote for the next CAP in the name of all the men and women that offer us the safest, most controlled and most healthy diet in the world”, French MEP Jérémy Decerle (Renew Europe) stated on Twitter.

Optimistically, Renew colleague Irène Tolleret, hinted in a statement sent to EURACTIV that “next Tuesday, the European Parliament will give its definite green light to a new CAP that is strong, more green and just”.

The future CAP “provides farmers with new tools to face future economic and environmental challenges” and would “send a message of stability to young generations”, she stated.

“I deplore the fact that the Green MEPs have announced they will vote against the CAP,” she said, adding that this new CAP is the result of a compromise in which the ecologists participated.

“Voting against it means keeping the previous CAP which is less green, less fair and less protective for farmers”, the French MEP maintained.

This point of view is definitely not shared by Benoît Biteau, a French Green MEP and member of the Parliament’s AGRI committee, who told the press on Friday (19 November) that the CAP reform on the table was “completely offbeat” with the European Green Deal, “the pedestal of this current mandate of both Parliament and Commission”, and in striking incoherence with the recently adopted biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies.

As one of the signatories of the “vote this CAP down” petition, the MEP is calling for a “system-change”, stating that “there is still time to stop this and make things right”.

But is there?

Already seriously lagging behind schedule, the future CAP – proposed by the European Commission in 2018, was originally supposed to cover the period 2021-2027 – is supposed to enter into force on 1st January 2023.

European member states have until the end of this year to submit their NSPs to the Commission in order to set out how they plan to decline the future CAP on the national level – a process in which, once again, time is running short as numerous countries appear to be struggling with the deadline.

And, once submitted, these plans still need to get the Commission’s approval, which is expected to take several months in 2022.

Which, as Udo Hemmerling, deputy general secretary of the German Farmers’ Association, recently pointed out to EURACTIV, would leave farmers with only a blink of time to respond to what will concretely be expected from them in 2023.

Responding to this issue of schedule, Biteau told journalists the problem could be solved by prolonging the transitional regime currently in place by another two years, which would leave legislators with enough time to rewrite the CAP reform.

Losing another two years to rewrite the deal would be “less severe than continuing on the current basis for another six years”, he said.

Asked about his hopes to see the CAP voted down, he declared that “only the battles we don’t fight are lost in advance.

He added he still hopes to see a “thunderclap” next week.

(M.P.)

EURACTIV will be on the ground reporting live from Strasbourg next week to bring you the latest on the vote, so stay tuned and don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

Agrifood Podcast

Final CAP vote, soil strategy, AMR

This week, EURACTIV talks about what to expect from the final CAP vote in Strasbourg next week, we take a look at the EU’s recently unveiled soil strategy.

This week, EURACTIV talks about what to expect from the final CAP vote in Strasbourg next week, we take a look at the EU’s recently unveiled soil strategy, including comments from Renew Europe’s Martin Hojsík, and we hear from the European Food Safety Agency’s Marta Hugas about the upcoming week focusing on antimicrobial resistance.

Agrifood news this week

Commissioner to oppose CAP plans restricting support for small, medium farmers
EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowksi said support for small and medium-sized farmers is a red line for the approval of member states’ CAP strategic plans, promising to oppose plans which restrict access to funding for these farmers. Natasha Foote has more.

EU agency positively assesses methane-busting feed additive for dairy cows
A new feed additive intended to reduce methane emissions from enteric fermentation of dairy cows has been considered efficacious by the EU’s food safety agency (EFSA). Gerardo Fortuna has more. 

Soils to receive same legal status as air, water in first EU-wide soil health law
The European Union’s soil strategy has outlined plans for a soil health law by 2023 to bring soil on the same legal footing as air and water, and EU lawmakers have warned this must be a hard deadline, confirming a leak of the strategy as announced by EURACTIV earlier this week. Natasha Foote has the details of the published strategy.

Carbon farming
In continuing coverage of EURACTIV’s Special Report on carbon farming, EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports that Spain seeks to maintain carbon in soils destined for agriculture in its strategy against climate change with the support of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). However, producers demand more funds to compensate for their efforts.

Carbon farming is also a priority for the German government, although farmers have warned they are not doing enough to support measures financially, while environmentalists add that some of the promoted practices have limited climate value.

Meanwhile, the French government is also aiming to green agriculture through the development of carbon sequestration in soils. But while French farmers salute the strategy, they have called for stronger aids for the transition to be financially sustainable. EURACTIV France has more.

News from the bubble

Deforestation strategy: The European Commission tabled its plan on Wednesday (17 November) to introduce mandatory due diligence for products sold on the EU market to make sure they are not linked to deforestation or forest degradation. Once approved, the legislation will mean more focus is put on the production of beef, soy, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee products and derived products placed on the EU market.

Agrobusiness? No, no, no! Climate activists and local farmers rallied outside the European Parliament in Brussels to the sound of ‘Agrobusiness? No-no-no! Agroecologie? Oui-oui-oui!’ on Friday (19 November). Campaigners from the #WithdrawTheCAP movement took the streets ahead of the final CAP vote in Strasbourg next week, asking European lawmakers to reject the current reform of the EU’s farming subsidies programme. They were joined in the protest by small-scale farmers who oppose the concentration of CAP subsidies in the hands of large industrial agri-enterprises. In case the reform will get through anyway, the #WithdrawTheCAP movement is considering preparing a legal action along the lines of what happened in Germany, where the Fridays for Future movement and other youth activists have filed a lawsuit against the national Climate protection law. At the end of April, Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that the law was partially unconstitutional as it harms intergenerational justice by shifting the burden of its implementation to future generations.

Neonicotinoid authorisations ‘justified’: EFSA published its assessments of emergency authorisations granted by 11 EU Member States for the use of neonicotinoid-based insecticides on sugar beet in 2020 and 2021. The assessments cover 17 emergency authorisations for plant protection products containing clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam or thiacloprid granted by Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. EFSA has concluded that in all 17 cases the emergency authorisations were justified, either because no alternative products or methods – chemical or non-chemical – were available or because there was a risk that the pest could become resistant to available alternative products.

‘Defenders of our society’: Speaking at FarmEurope’s global food forum, Spanish agriculture minister Luis Planas took the opportunity to stress that that farmers are not the enemy, but instead have been the “defender of our society, of our civilisation” for centuries. “We need balance in this discussion,” he urged. On trade, the minister said there was “no sense” in upping the EU’s ambitions on standards while accepting lower quality products from elsewhere, stressing that this was a question of “fairness and competition”. Planas also criticised the fact he had to debate a US impact assessment on the Farm to Fork strategy in the Spanish Parliament multiple times while it was “known that the European Commission’s JRC study was waiting”, something that EURACTIV confirmed back in October.

News from the Capitals

CZECHIA
The future cabinet will bring a shift to the country’s farm policy by capping EU subsidies and focusing on small and medium-sized farms, effectively putting an end to the EU subsiding large agricultural companies, something the outgoing government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš fought hard in the past years to ensure. Read more. (Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)

GERMANY

German parliament votes to cut farmers’ tax benefits. On Thursday (18 November), the Bundestag adopted a draft law that changes some of the tax rules applying to farmers and is expected to lead to a higher tax burden for some. Under certain conditions, farmers have so far been allowed to retain the value added tax (VAT) they collect on sold products for themselves rather than it to tax authorities. The provision had come under pressure from the EU level due to an ongoing infringement procedure at the European Court of Justice. Under the new law, farmers can now only retain part of the VAT they collect. Farmers criticised the decision. The new legislation “is based on systematic bias and will lead to further disadvantages for affected farms,” the president of the German Farmers Association, Joachim Rukwied, said. (Julia Dahm | EURACTIV.DE)

FRANCE

French Senate adopts ‘death benefit’ for the families of deceased farmers. French senators voted last week for a death benefit of €3,500 to be paid to the families of farmers who died due to illness, accident or by committing suicide. Farmers’ families were not previously entitled to this aid, although such a death benefit exists for other social security schemes in France. The vote reflects the government’s desire to provide better support for farmers in distress and to prevent suicide. French farmers still have the highest mortality rate linked to suicide of all social categories, with one farm owner taking his life every day in France. The death benefit adopted last week is supposed to offer better support to bereaved families. ​​(Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.FR)

GREECE 

A draft law on the operation of livestock facilities was submitted to the Greek parliament. On Monday (November 15), a draft law on the operation of livestock facilities was submitted to the Greek parliament. The Minister of Rural Development and Food, Spilios Livanos, stated that he hopes to “provide a solution to the chronic problems of livestock facilities licensing”. In an announcement, the Ministry of Rural Development mentioned that the scope of the new bill is “the modernisation of livestock facilities, their viability and the strengthening of agricultural entrepreneurship, always observing the foreseen sanitary and environmental conditions”. The debate on the Parliamentary committee started on Thursday (November 18). (Georgia Evangelia Karagianni| EURACTIV.gr)

POLAND

Poland was ranked 22nd in the 10th Annual Food Safety Index (GFSI). The report presents knowledge about food security in the context of the future and the ongoing fight against hunger. For the second year in a row, this index shows a decline in food security. However, the report reveals a number of positive trends in food security in Poland, “says Przemysław Szubstarski, Country Leader Corteva Agriscience Polska, a company involved in the creation of the index. Poland is currently one of 27 countries which received the highest index in the category “Natural resources and resilience of food systems to climate change / Disaster risk management” and, compared to last year’s ranking, this means an increase by 3 places. (Kamila Wilczyńska | EURACTIV.pl)

ITALY

Nutri-score battle rages on. There is already a ‘blocking majority’ in the EU Agrifish Council against the adoption of color-coded Nutri-score as EU-wide harmonized nutritional labelling, according to Italy’s agriculture minister Stefano Patuanelli. He said that Italy carried out an intense diplomatic work at the EU Agrifish Council over the past months, managing to convince enough EU ministers to join the side of countries against the French system. This blocking majority should stop any attempt to propose Nutri-score as the harmonised food labelling scheme that the Commission is expected to put forward in the context of the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F). (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)

SLOVAKIA

Slovak food has fewer pesticide residues. According to a report carried out by the Foods Research Institute (VÚP), which investigated whether food and infant food sold in Slovakia contained pesticide residues, Slovak food has fewer pesticide residues. Overall, inspectors found one or more traces of pesticides in 56% of the foods surveyed. In the case of Slovak food, the results were more positive, revealing traces of pesticides in only 39% of the food, meaning up to 60% of the products examined were free of pesticide residues. In comparison, those originating from the EU contained pesticide residues in 53%, while 5 samples were unsatisfactory. According to the ministry of agriculture, the above results show that Slovak food is of high quality and harmless. “That is why our consumers should focus on distinguishing origin when buying food and prefer as many goods from domestic production as possible,” the ministry said. (Marián Koreň | EURACTIV.sk)

IRELAND

Ireland strengthens controls against avian flu. Stringent biosecurity measures for birds and poultry came into force across the island this week in a bid to stop Avian influenza from spreading into Irish commercial poultry flocks. Avian flu, according to the Irish Examiner. The news comes on the back of increasing cases across the EU, putting authorities on high alert. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

CROATIA 

Croatian Veal Association seeking state support. The ‘Baby Beef Association for Fattening and Raising Cattle’ has asked the state for help to breeders in achieving cost competitiveness and placing domestic beef in competition with imports of lower quality meat. On the back of rising fodder prices and stagnating meat prices, new president of the association Zvonko Širjan said the intervention is necessary in order to “survive the winter”. “As one of the short-term measures, we expect state intervention. Through product labelling, we want to get higher prices that will help our sector survive. We also suggest opening markets like Turkish and Israeli, and we certainly expect Croatian producers to be promoted and Croatian meat to be sold through retail, not only imported,” Širjan said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

Events

23 November | Nutriscore: a high-level dialogue between science, citizens, and operators

24 November | The European Parliament final vote on the CAP, taking place in Strasbourg

25 November | Cooperativism and the ESG agenda 

29 November | Agricultural development in the European recovery plan in Germany (in German)

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