Agrifood Brief: It ain’t over ’til it’s over

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So, in the immortal words of the Looney Toons, that’s all folks – the CAP is officially a wrap.

Yes, after three long years of trials and tribulations, dialogues and discussions, intense lobbying and more protests than I can count, lawmakers in the European Parliament gave their blessing to the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) this week during the plenary session in Strasbourg. 

Some of us, including EU farmers (who have been calling for some much-needed certainty), breathed a sigh of relief. Others cried out in outrage.

Most, though, were left with a feeling of begrudging acceptance

Or, as Leftist MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan put it: I don’t like it. It’s far from perfect, but the alternative is worse.

But for all of you worrying that the CAP fun is over – never fear, because it ain’t over til the CAP lady sings (and by that, I mean me on this week’s podcast). 

Seriously now, this CAP reform is the gift that keeps on giving because there’s an added layer of fun to come in the form of the CAP strategic plans.

Through these plans, the drafts of which are due for submission to the Commission by the end of the year for its approval, EU countries will each individually outline and implement the new CAP at the national level. 

The move is part of this reform’s ambition to shift more power and responsibility to member states. 

In other words, the European Commission is throwing the ball over to member states’ courts. 

So, what do we know so far about the next steps for the EU farming subsidy programme? 

Well, firstly, the timeline

These plans are due at the end of the year, and this is already causing headaches. 

In fact, it looks like at least two member states, including the Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski’s home country of Poland, are already on course to miss this deadline

Then, of course, the real bone of contention. Alignment with the Green Deal. 

These plans are supposed to be the main (and only) vehicle by which member states carry out the Commission’s sustainable ambitions. 

So, surely, non-alignment with the deal would be a solid enough basis for the Commission to reject a plan?

Not so fast.

Laying all his cards straight on the table, Commissioner Wojciechowski has already suggested that he would not reject a plan on the basis of the Green Deal, but would instead bank on the power of persuasion. 

Perhaps he should never try his hand at poker…

What’s more, it seems the Commission’s ambition to tie the EU’s farming subsidies programme to the European Green Deal may be set to fall victim to pressure from member states in a behind-closed-doors procedure, after concerns have emerged over the content of the Commission’s implementing act on the strategic plans.

So, if not green deal alignment, what would be enough to topple a plan?

Well, it seems that the Commissioner’s pet subject, small farmers, would be enough to do the trick, with the Commissioner recently suggesting that a hard red line would be lack of support for small farmers.

He also took the opportunity to stress once again that he would “personally ensure” small farmers received enough support in these plans, in his reaction after this week’s vote.

And while all the focus is currently on how to turn nice words into actions, another problem is already brewing – how to assess these actions, ensuring that member states are putting their money where their mouth is.

The question of how to hold member states accountable and measure the impact of the actions outlined in their CAP plans remains open. 

In other words, there’s still plenty to play for in this CAP reform.

Or, as Lenny Kravitz put it – so many tears I’ve cried, so much pain inside, but baby, it ain’t over till it’s over. 

(N.F.)

For the latest on how these plans progress, be sure to follow EURACTIV’s CAP tracker.

Agrifood Podcast

All things CAP & girl power

This week, EURACTIV’s Natasha Foote is joined by EURACTIV France’s Magdalena Pistorius to discuss how the final vote on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy

This week, EURACTIV’s Natasha Foote is joined by EURACTIV France’s Magdalena Pistorius to discuss how the final vote on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) went down this week in Strasbourg, including reactions and next steps for the farming subsidy programme.

Agrifood news this week

France might drop support for Nutri-score, say Italians

The French government is mulling over the possibility of not backing the French colour-coded nutritional label Nutri-score as the new EU-wide food labelling scheme, according to Italy’s agriculture minister. Gerardo Fortuna has more.

New German coalition plans mandatory animal welfare label, restructuring of farm subsidies
Germany’s next government will introduce compulsory livestock labelling and revise the distribution of EU agricultural subsidies, according to the coalition agreement the three parties agreed to on Wednesday (24 November). EURACTIV Germany reports.

Reinforced Horizon budget for 2022 is good news for agrifood
The European Parliament approved the 2022 budget, giving the EU’s research programme a €100 million boost, much to the relief of agricultural stakeholders, who previously warned of the impact a cut in funding would have for the sector’s sustainability goals. Natasha Foote has more.

NEWBIE on the block: How support networks can encourage farming debutants
The lack of young farmers remains a major challenge for the agrifood world. EURACTIV takes a look at a new project exploring how newcomers can be supported in establishing resilient and sustainable farm businesses across Europe. Magdalena Pistorius has the details.

Horizon Europe opens new doors to fund rural digitalisation
EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports.The European Union’s main research programme, Horizon Europe, opens new ways to reinforce rural digitalisation and technologies in the agri-food business through international projects and funds beyond those already earmarked in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Expert: Carbon farming ideal to boost Poland’s yields
Carbon farming practices could help Polish farmers cope with permanent drought as they could increase the productivity of their yields, an expert has told EURACTIV Poland as part of EURACTIV’s Special Report on carbon farming.

CAP corner

CAP reform: Signed, sealed – now all eyes are on how it will deliver
The European Parliament has signed off on the reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, but has vowed to keep a watchful eye over the next steps of the contentious reform.

Onwards, but is it upwards? Verdict is out over contentious CAP reform vote
As the dust settles on the European Parliament’s vote on the contentious reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the EU’s multi-billion euro farming subsidy programme, stakeholders are split as to whether the reform represents a step in the right direction. EURACTIV’s Natasha Foote brings you everyone’s reactions to the vote.

Feeling a bit lost on all this CAP? Not to worry – EURACTIV has you covered
Check out this quick refresher for all the background leading up to the final vote this week on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

News from the bubble

Greenwashing: A group of global investors representing more than $3.5 trillion in assets has urged the European Commission not to allow intensive farming to be badged as a sustainable activity in upcoming rules, a letter seen by Reuters showed.

Glyphosate: The NGO Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) published a review of the EU assessment on the toxicity of this popular pesticide, which they say confirms that the evaluation is still “mostly based on studies and arguments provided by the chemical industry and does not take into consideration all available evidence”. It follows an open letter sent to EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides last month where 41 health and environment groups from across Europe expressed their concerns about the use of unreliable industry studies in the current renewal assessment of glyphosate. In her response, the EU Commissioner maintained that the ongoing assessment takes into consideration all available scientific evidence from peer-reviewed independent literature, contrary to HEAL’s analysis.

Agrifood trade: The total value of EU agri-food trade (exports plus imports) for January-August 2021 reached a value of €210.5 billion, reflecting a 5.1% increase on the same period last year, according to a new Commission report.

Breakdown across the bloc: Interested in a breakdown of EU agricultural subsidies by country? Or how production differs across the bloc? Check out this new infographic from the Commission.

Geographical indications: The Commission has approved the addition of ‘Alho da Graciosa’ from Portugal in the register of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) this week, as well as Cambodian Kampot Pepper, which is the first geographical indication protected in the EU under the Geneva Act.

Merge: The European Commission has approved, under the European Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Etablissements J. Soufflet (“Soufflet”) by Union InVivo (“InVivo”), both based in France. Soufflet is an agri-food group which operates mainly in France in the collection and marketing of cereals, the distribution of agricultural supplies, agronomic advice, and the production and marketing of malt and flour. InVivo is a union of agricultural cooperatives which is mainly active in France in the marketing of seeds, the supply of agricultural products, the storage and marketing of cereals, as well as the retail distribution of garden centre products.

Autumn brings good news: According to the November issue of the JRC MARS Bulletin – Crop monitoring in Europe, which was published today, continued fair autumn weather in most parts of Europe provided good conditions for farmers to progress with the sowing of winter crops, as well as for the emergence and early development of seedlings.

News from the Capitals 

GERMANY
German stakeholders have mixed feelings over the CAP reform vote. The German Farmers’ Association (DBV) welcomed the European Parliament’s vote in favour of the legislation to reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy as a step towards planning security for farmers. “The EU’s agricultural policy is a key tool for investing in the future of agriculture in Europe,” the organisation’s president, Joachim Rukwied, said. Environmental campaigners, however, denounced the reform for lacking ambition. The reform “does not live up to the goals of the Green Deal,” Jörg-Andreas Krüger, president of environmental NGO NABU, said. He added that the policy failed to initiate a “change of course” to make CAP funding more sustainable. (Julia Dahm | EURACTIV.DE)

FRANCE
Government announces National Pollinator Plan. The French Ministry of Agriculture and Food published its national action plan for pollinators and pollination 2021-2026 this week. Considering that, faced with the decline of pollinators, “the preservation of pollinating insects constitutes a major challenge to guarantee the food production capacities of a large number of crops”, the ministry admits that there is now “an urgent need to act”. The action plan thus aims to improve scientific knowledge on the decline of pollinators and the monitoring of their health and to take better account of pollinators in agricultural and forestry practices as well as in the management of urban areas. The ministry further announced a revision of the regulation on the use of pesticides during the flowering period and its plan to strengthen risk assessment for pollinators at the national and European levels. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.FR)

IRELAND
Farmers are fed up. Farmers protested outside Agriculture House on Sunday. As reported by the Irish Examiner, farmers are increasingly wondering what the point of scaling back low-carbon Irish agriculture is, while countries with higher emission agriculture continue mass deforestation to ramp up production, leading to a growing unease among the farming community. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

SPAIN
Support for primary sector. The Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas is “open” to examining the economic crisis affecting the primary sector and does not exclude any measure or option that may serve to do so, since “there are urgent situations before which we have to answer”. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro has more.

GREECE
Moves to safeguard ‘real’ producers. Last Friday (November 19), the Greek minister of rural development and food, Spilios Livanos, attended the 10th CAP conference in the city of Patras where he stated that, in order to safeguard the interests of real producers and to prevent phenomena of ‘black’ economy, the ministry is proceeding with reforms in favour of “real producers”. On the CAP reform, the minister announced changes to “strengthen small and medium-sized farms through redistributive payment from 2023” and also pledged to support young farmers with a 50% increase in the budget. (Georgia Evangelia Karagianni| EURACTIV.gr)

POLAND
Farmers concerned over new act. Last Wednesday (17 of November) Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczyk and Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin signed a letter to establish the ‘national food holding’ act, to be created from the merger of enterprises dealing in agriculture and food processing. The goal is to fight for the interest of the Polish farmers against foreign competition. “Today’s event brings us closer to establishing a holding company that will be a response to the problems reported by farmers,” Kowalczyk said. However, farmers warned in May that the act would weaken the position of farmers and strengthen the state. Michał Kołodziejczak, leader of the agrarian political movement Agrounia, stated that creating a state agricultural organisation – instead of supporting farmers via other methods – was a big mistake. (Kamila Wilczyńska | EURACTIV.pl)

SLOVAKIA
Increased support for small and medium-sized farms. Ján Pokrivčák, head of the Institute of Agricultural Policy, who is responsible for the preparation of the Slovak CAP strategic plan, has pledged more support for small and medium farmers in an interview for EURACTIV Slovakia.  According to him, Slovakia’s low food self-sufficiency (less than 50%) is the result of the “management of large farms”. The structure of the Slovak agri-food sector is dominated by large agricultural enterprises. The concentration of direct payments in Slovakia is the highest among the EU member states – up to 94% of all direct payments end up in the accounts of 20% of farms. To address this, the Ministry of Agriculture, therefore, wants to redirect a bigger part of the payments to small and medium-sized farms. From 2023, it plans to introduce both a cap of €100,000 on direct payments and a redistributive payment. “We believe that if this regulation passes through, large farms will adapt to it by improving the structure of production in order to increase employment,“ he said, adding that small farms have a “high added value”.(Marián Koreň | EURACTIV.sk)

CROATIA
Subsidies for adjustment milk collection points in order to preserve production. The government aims to bring in a new scheme supporting milk collection points which, according to Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković, is designed to ensure their survival and that of small farms in rural areas. Collection points are establishments where milk from at least two or more producers is collected in a purchase system by a single establishment approved for milk processing. As it currently stands, some collection points do not reach the sufficient hygiene requirements as set out by the state. The financial support aims to bring all collection points up to scratch, said Vučković. “The importance of collection points in the context of primary milk production is extremely high, especially in remote rural areas, and affects the survival of dairy farming on small farms, of which more than 2,500 milk is delivered through registered collection points,” the minister said. The subsidies would be paid as low-value support, and funds for the implementation of the Program are provided in the State budget for 2021 and projections for 2022 and 2023 in the amount of 2 million kunas (€266.000) per year. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)

Events

29 November | There is a Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA) meeting, the provisional agenda of which can be found here

29 November | Farm to Fork Strategy: High-level event on the future of New Genomic Techniques

29 – 30 November | COMAGRI Committee meeting. Details here

30 November – 1 December | EIT Future of Food conference, featuring Commissioner Wojciechowski as a keynote speaker

1 – 2 December | Final vote on protection of animals during transport

2 December | ENRD workshop: The Farm to Fork Strategy and cooperation in the agri-food supply chain

6 December | Between farm and fork: the role of innovative ingredients and food technology in achieving Farm to Fork objectives

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