Agrifood Brief: Out of touch, out of time

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Welcome to EURACTIV’s AgriFood Brief, your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU. You can subscribe here if you haven’t done so yet.

Apologies for a delay in our usual Friday newsletter – we took the decision to reflect on last week’s CAP negotiations before creating our podcast and newsletter. Hopefully we’re all more awake to enjoy it now!

34 - Final CAP down - what went wrong?

This week: In EURACTIV’s latest agrifood podcast, we reflect on the final CAP down week, exploring why talks collapsed and negotiators did not manage to seal a deal, and we speak with Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver, director in DG AGRI in charge of quality, research and innovation, on promotional policy

 

As the fairytale of Goldilocks can confirm, there is a trick to serving something at just the right temperature – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Likewise, all kinds of negotiators tread a delicate line – not too much to one side, not too much to the other, just enough to keep both sides happy.

This was a line that negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform failed to strike last week when negotiations hit a brick wall – one which EU agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski now finds his back up against.

As a quick refresher, Goldilocks and the three bears is the story of a hungry (but fussy) little girl who stumbles upon an empty cabin in the woods, where she finds three bowls of porridge and helps herself to each one until she finds her perfect bowl.

The problem with CAP isn’t just that the negotiators’ perfect porridges are far apart. It’s also that the expectations of the three grumbly bears on this meal far surpasses that of Goldilocks’ modest demands.

On the one side, we have the Parliament who wants their porridge much, much hotter, and made from local, organic oats, grown in a way that guarantees farmers fair prices and also that all the workers have been treated fairly along the way.

On the other, we have the Council, frantically blowing on the porridge to cool it down enough to be appetising for even the most sensitive of mouths.

And, stuck in the middle, we find the Commissioner in the unenviable position of trying to find a porridge to everyone’s tastes.

A ‘gruel’-ing task, as I’m sure we’d all agree, and one which won’t win you many friends, as the Commissioner found out the hard way this week.

Because not only has he failed to convince anybody to sample the offer on the table, but he’s also managed to turn all sides against him in the process.

pinned tweet spoke volumes this week about the growing unease surrounding the Commissioner and his role in negotiations.

Insisting that he “listens carefully” to the voices of farmers, who see an opportunity in agricultural and demand implementation of its objectives, Wojciechowski stressed that he counts on “serious discussion between member state authorities and farmers who want goals of the EU’s Farm to Fork to be included in CAP national strategic plans.”

Some have suggested that this may be a direct response to the harsh criticisms launched against the Commissioner last week, which saw a number of stakeholders expressing their dissatisfaction at the failure to conclude talks on the CAP reform last week.

EU farmers association COPA-COGECA certainly did not hold back in their statement published in the aftermath of the talks, saying this failure was foreseeable due to the “weakness and poor understanding of the Agriculture Commissioner regarding the reality of farming in Europe”.

This frustration was also echoed by ministers who also reserved some harsh criticisms for the Commissioner in the aftermath of the talks.

EURACTIV understands that member states are not best pleased with him and that Wojciechowski has been delegitimised in their eyes.

There’s also a strong sentiment from the Council that the Commissioner aligned himself much too closely to the Parliament.

Surely, then, the Parliament at least was happy?

Not quite. It seems the Commissioner hasn’t earned himself any stripes there either yet.

Instead, Parliament also criticised the Commission for not being impactful enough.

Speaking during a press conference last week, the chair of Parliament’s agriculture committee, German MEP Norbert Lins, said he wanted more from the Commissioner and would look at an expanded role of the Commission in brokering the negotiations.

Meanwhile, sources inside the negotiations told EURACTIV that there was the feeling that the Commissioner did not speak up enough during the talks.

“It seemed that the Commissioner was being more vocal on Twitter than he was in the room,” one source from the Parliament told EURACTIV.

Alright, so not the farmers, nor the Council or the Parliament – but what about the NGOs? Surely they had something nice to say?

Well, not exactly, because for members of civil society, Wojciechowski has still not pushed far enough towards the greener future they would like to see.

So, that makes a full house.

For his part, the Commissioner made it clear that, as far as he was concerned, the role of the Commission was “very much in line with what the Commission wanted and wants to achieve”.

He pointed out that the perception that the Commission was closer to the Parliament was purely coincidental, suggesting it was simply because the Parliament’s mandate was closer to the Commission proposals.

Time will tell whether negotiators will manage to find the Goldilocks of agreements.

But to sum up, the current feeling towards the Commissioner and the CAP reform negotiations, as (the extremely aptly named) Hall and ‘Oates’ sang: (you’re) out of touch, (we’re all) out of time.

(N.F)

Stories of the week

EU and UK agree fishing deal amid Channel rowThe EU and the UK on Wednesday (2 June) concluded an agreement setting out catch limits for jointly managed fish stocks for 2021, the first annual deal under the new trade pact between London and Brussels. Benjamin Fox has more.

Commission awards historic EU protection for African food
South Africa’s ‘rooibos’ dried leaves and stems, used to produce the eponymous herbal-infused tea, have become the first African food to receive the status of geographical indication (GIs) in the European Union. Gerardo Fortuna has the story.

French MEPs: Council mostly to blame for failed CAP talks
French MEPs are blaming the EU’s agriculture ministers for the failure of “super-trilogue” talks to reach an agreement on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) last week, warning that it will now be difficult to break the deadlock. EURACTIV France reports.

CAP corner

In case you missed it: Check out our last newsletter with all the details on the CAP reform negotiation week, including a summary of the main differences between the Council and the Parliament proposals during last week’s negotiations

CAP and climate change: The Commission published a new evaluation of the impact of the CAP on climate change and GHG emissions, which showed that CAP measures help with climate change mitigation and adaptation but there is a need for better targeting to reach the 2030 objective of a 55% emissions reduction

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As negotiators continue to attempt to hash out a deal on the reform, EURACTIV put together this quick re-‘CAP’ video offering a flavour of all of our CAP coverage over the past year as part of EURACTIV’s project, ‘Beyond Agriculture’.

News from the bubble

Freudian slip? The tell-tale hashtag: does the Commissioner’s use of the #NutriScore reveal that the Commission has already opted for the French scheme in its forthcoming proposal for EU-wide nutrition labelling? “Speaking to [consumers organisation] BEUC in the context of the on-going preparation of the EC proposal for a harmonised mandatory front of the pack nutrition labelling, announced in EU Farm to Fork #NutriScore” wrote Commissioner Wojciechowski on Twitter

Revealing tweets: French MEP Benoît Biteau bared all this week in support of organic farmers protesting against the alleged drop in aid in the new CAP reform.  “Tomorrow, I will be alongside organic farmers to denounce the elimination of 66% on average of CAP public aid to organic farmers! Deregulation of climate, the collapse of biodiversity and the Green Deal need to support agroecology, not to discourage it!” he revealed on Twitter

Food prices soar: Global food prices rose in May at their fastest monthly rate in more than a decade, even as world cereal production is on course to reach a new record high, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported this week

Geographical indications: The European Commission has approved the application for inclusion of “Hegykői petrezselyemgyökér”, a parsley root, from Hungary and “Salată cu icre de știucă de Tulcea”, a cream made from white sunflower oil, from Romania in the Register of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI)

News from the Capitals

FRANCE
Organic farmers have been protesting in Paris against a potential cut in aid for organic farmers in the future CAP. But the French agriculture minister insists their calculations are “biased”. EURACTIV France reports (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)

SPAIN
The agriculture minister Luis Planas, who was the ambassador of Spain in Morocco between 2004 and 2010, has said this week that the “intense” cooperation that Spain and the neighboring country have had in agricultural matters will continue as the interests of both countries “clearly converge.” EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports

GERMANY 
The German Farmers Association has released its official stance on the upcoming federal elections this September. On Tuesday (1 June), the organisation published a position paper that lists ten key demands for the new legislative period. “The primary objective has to be that farm businesses gain a sufficient income, that they have perspectives for the future and enjoy appreciation,” said the association’s president Joachim Rukwied. In terms of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the farmers demand a continued high level of direct payments and higher financial compensation for regulatory interference in farms’ mode of operation. The paper also states that climate neutrality is impossible to achieve in food production and should not be a policy goal. (Julia Dahm | EURACTIV.de)

IRELAND
Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Matt Carthy has accused agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue of “arguing against the interests of the majority of Irish farmers” during CAP negotiations in Brussels and “jeopardising CAP payments for farmers at the behest of vested interests”, according to Agriland. He added that the minister’s position was “in stark contrast to his pre-election commitment to deliver fairness in CAP”. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

ITALY
A plan to distribute €20 million among Italian regions as compensation caused by the frost in 2020 has been approved this week. The Ministry of Agriculture has also signed a €10-million decree for the private storage of quality wines, a tool to address the market crisis in the wine sector following the pandemic crisis. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)

UK 
Tensions continue to rise among UK farmers over the looming Australia-UK trade deal who protest that there are no meaningful safeguards in place to stop farmers being undercut by cheap imports, according to the BBC. Farmers in Australia are allowed to use a number of production methods that are not permitted in the UK, including the use of some hormone growth promoters, pesticides, and feed additives that are banned in the UK.  (Natasha Foote |  EURACTIV.com)

Events

9 June – EU40Talks will hold a virtual discussion will tackle the topic of new breeding techniques after the recent publication of the European Commission’s report on the subject, EU40 is organising this debate on the challenges and opportunities surrounding NBTs

11 June – There is the 65th public annual meeting on future proofing feed, which will feature an opening message from EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski

11 June – There is an event to debate the challenges that exist in the development of local and regional plans aimed to achieve the zero-pollution ambition, aware of the difference existing between the rural, urban and peri-urban contexts. See here for details

11 June – As part of the EU Green Week, there is the event “Greening Energy in Rural Areas Through the Valorisation of Agricultural Residues”

11 June – There is a free online conference focusing on functional agro-biodiversity measures for sustainable agricultural production, while also delivering benefits to the environment and society as a whole

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