Agrifood Brief: Solomon’s dilemma

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38 - The final CAP down - all you need to know

This week: EURACTIV brings you up to speed with all the developments on the long awaited CAP reform and exactly what was decided last week. To put this CAP reform in perspective, we spoke with Angelo Di Mambro, a journalist with the Italian media ANSA and long-time CAP follower, about how this CAP reform compares to previous policies. We also delve in to all of the most contentious elements of this reform with the help of ENVI Chair Pascal Canfin giving his take on the alignment of the Green Deal, Birdlife’s Harriet Bradley who explains the issues with the GAECs, Enrico Somaglia from the European trade union of food and agriculture about the conclusion reached on social conditionality, Irish MEP Colm Markey on internal convergence, and young farmer’s association CEJA’s recently elected new President Diana Lenzi on what this CAP reform holds for young farmers

Be it environmental protection or animal welfare, there simply seems to be no easy right-or-wrong decision on the future of food and agriculture.

This is a dilemma that would stump even King Solomon, the biblical king hailed for his wisdom and sense of justice.

For a refresher, legend has it that when two women, both claiming to be the mother of the same child, were brought before him, he ordered his guard to cut the baby in half so that each could have a share. The true mother, who preferred to give up her child so that it may live while the other only shrugged, was unveiled.

A simple good-guy-bad-guy story with a morally satisfying wrap-up.

However, when it comes to transforming agriculture and the food system as we know it towards what would generally seem like a better, greener, fairer future, things just never seem that easy.

For example, take this week, which has seen a number of exciting announcements. The 27 ministers of agriculture endorsed last week’s CAP deal and the Commission gave its green light to the end of cage age in Europe, to name but a few.

So far, so good. But of course, just as the invention of the car brought comfort and speed to peoples’ lives but doomed the romantic and age-old habit of horseback riding, no advance in the agri-food world comes without its critics and downsides.

Let’s take this CAP deal, for starters.

While everyone more or less agrees that European agriculture has to become greener in order to tackle climate change, the “how” has been (and continues to be) subject to bitter disagreements.

If we come back to the story of the two mothers, one might be shouting that only highly ambitious environmental engagements will save her child (aka planet Earth and future generations).

The other might be insisting that while a green transformation is all well and nice, abrupt change will deprive farmers of their subsistence – killing sovereign European agriculture and thus the possibility to engage for baby environment altogether.

The reactions we saw in France to the CAP deal reached last week are a perfect illustration of this dilemma: for French agri-food minister Julien Denormandie, the compromise is a “good deal” that will “strengthen the environmental ambition of the CAP throughout the EU”.

Too much, too quick, the biggest farmers’ syndicate FNSEA fears, warning of the “significant impact” the deal would have on farmers and calling for “appropriate and realistic solutions”.

A total lack of ambition, French environmentalist MEP Benoît Biteau cried out, labelling the deal a “disaster” that would fail to tackle the pressing issue of climate change.

The difference here is that while none of these assessments seem entirely wrong, it is not quite clear who is right.

Compared to the Bible, where there was only one true mother, Solomon would have a hard time telling who’s good or bad when it comes to greening the CAP.

The same can be said of animal welfare.

This week, the European Commission backed citizens’ calls for putting an end to caged farm animals across Europe. The institution will propose legislative steps in view of phasing out the use of cages by 2027.

A “historic” decision, animal welfare organisation CIWF rejoiced.

“Factory farming is the biggest cause of cruelty to sentient creatures on the planet. Ending the use of cages is a massive step towards ending factory farming,” they said.

Yet once again, farmers’ representatives warned that the transition will cost them money that will have to be compensated by financial support, and higher prices.

But as a syndicalist told EURACTIV France in spring, consumers are not happy to spend more on their animal products and will often opt for cheap imported alternatives.

In other words: farmers themselves are prepared to up the ambition on animal welfare but are hemmed by the lack of financial willingness from consumers and political unwillingness to impose animal welfare standards on imports to stop unfair competition.

A neat lie, according to CIWF France: if only politics imposed clear standards and a European animal welfare label on food packaging, consumers would be happy to choose local produce and pay a decent price for it. Isn’t that what consumers/citizens expressed when signing the “End the Cage Age” initiative by the hundreds and thousands?

Once again, despite major steps taken this week, the discussion keeps running in circles, with each party handing responsibility to the next as if it were a hot potato – and still no simple truth in sight.

What would Solomon have said?

Threatening to cut the child in half decidedly does not look like a feasible solution in European agricultural policy, as the one true mother of environmental progress and animal welfare simply doesn’t seem to exist.

Or maybe that’s the wrong way to see things: with the Union’s compromise culture, sometimes it rather looks like Solomon did actually cut the baby in two – except in this case, nobody’s left satisfied.

Agrifood news this week

Commission backs ban on cages in farming in ‘historic’ move for animal welfare
The European Commission has committed to working towards a ban on cages for farmed animals in what is being hailed as an historic move for animal welfare after a citizens initiative amassed more than one million signatures from across Europe. Natasha Foote has the details.

Greens do not break up with Timmermans, but letdown remains
European Greens have been disappointed with the first steps in the EU’s Green Deal implementation but despite recent criticism received from Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, they have expressed readiness to continue working with him on shaping the bloc’s green agenda. Gerardo Fortuna has the story.

Commissioner: Rejecting CAP plans on basis of Green Deal alignment ‘unimaginable’
The EU’s Agriculture Commissioner has said he does not foresee a situation where a member state’s Common Agricultural Policy national plan would be rejected for failing to align with the Green Deal, banking instead on the power of persuasion. Natasha Foote has more.

EU to fight ‘geography of discontent’ with new vision for rural areas
The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday (30 June) its long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas, proposing a rural pact and a rural action plan aimed at making those regions stronger, connected, and prosperous. Gerardo Fortuna has the details.

EU countries call for ‘permanent ban’ on fur farming
Austria and the Netherlands are leading a coalition of EU countries asking the European Commission to legislate to end fur farming in Europe. They received broad support among other EU member states although some expressed reservations. Gerardo Fortuna brings you more.

Restoring pride top priority for Generation Z farmers
Generation Z – those born between 1997 and 2015 – is faced with the future farming paradox: it is an exciting time to be a farmer with many opportunities opened up by innovation, but a farmer’s life has never been so complicated. Learn more.

Mixed feelings in Germany over EU farm reform compromise deal
German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has praised the EU’s compromise deal on the reform of the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), while associations and opposition parties criticised its shortcomings on organic farming and nature conservation. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Eco-score makes its entry in EU’s front-of-pack labelling debate
The European Commission registered on Wednesday (30 June) a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) calling for a “European eco-score” to inform consumers about the ecological impact of different products amid growing support for such a move in France. EURACTIV France reports.

France still has mixed feelings over compromise CAP deal
After the 27 EU agriculture ministers agreed in principle on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on Monday (28 June), following months of tough negotiations, not everyone in France is happy with the result. EURACTIV France reports.

CAP corner

Final deal details: The Commission has released a Q&A detailing the recent political agreement on the next €270 billion EU farm policy reform, and here you can find a summary of the main takes from the CAP reform negotiations

CAP and climate change: NGOs are not best pleased with the conclusion of the CAP reform – in this Carbon Brief you can find a comprehensive overview the potential role of the CAP in cutting emissions and what the newly agreed reforms entail

Below, you can find an updated side-by-side comparison of the positions of the negotiators alongside what was agreed:

CAP reform - where did it land?

News from the bubble

Slovenian Presidency: This week, EU Agriculture Minister Janusz Wojciechowski, together with Commission President Ursual Von der Leyen and other Commissioners, attended the inaugural meeting of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Antimicrobial resistance: EFSA, together with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), published a scientific report on “Antimicrobial consumption and resistance in bacteria from humans and animals” which found that the use of antibiotics has decreased and is now lower in food-producing animals than in humans. It adds that the significant fall in antibiotic use in food-producing animals suggests that the measures taken at country level to reduce use are proving to be effective. EFSA’s Executive Director, Bernhard Url said that this is encouraging news and that it means that “the measures are effective and that we are on the right track”. “But we have to keep fighting AMR with all available means. We can only do it together” he warned.

Cooperative award: More than 100 agricultural and forestry cooperatives participated in the 5th edition of the European award for cooperative innovation. The award, organised by farmers association Cogeca and supported by the Spanish cooperative bank Cajamar Caja Rural, aims to recognise innovations that deliver value under the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainability. The association said that the number and the quality of submissions from across Europe confirmed that “agricultural transitions are underway in all domains, driven by the cooperative enterprises”. Here you can find the finalists.

Organic plan: EU farmers association Copa-Cogeca has outlined its position on the EU’s  organic action plan, which you can find here.

Agrifood news from the Capitals

ROMANIA
Romania needs to focus more on agrifood processing in the CAP to protect the competitiveness of its farming sector, Daniel Buda, a member of the AGRI Committee of the European Parliament, told a conference this week. “It is inadmissible that today Romania is the main country exporting wheat or corn, but at the same time is the state with massive imports of frozen bread, of bakery products,” Buda said. Romania is one of the main agricultural producers in the European Union, but it also has a deficit in the agri-food trade, despite exports of millions of tons of cereals. Buda invited farmers to work with national authorities in drawing up the national strategic plans, which should be submitted by the end of the year. “The young farmers of today are the ones who will produce food for future generations, and I am confident that they will access the European funds made available in the coming years to develop the processing component, to strengthen the agricultural sector. I want to assure you that in the new CAP, farmers will be supported with the right tools to provide high-quality and affordable food for consumers,” Buda added. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)

GERMANY
Together with the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Germany has called for a ban on live animal transports to non-EU countries. “Be it via sea or on the road: We believe that animals should not be transported for so many hours,” German agricultural minister Julia Klöckner said during the meeting of the Agrifish Council on Monday (28 June). The three countries’ joint statement argues that animal welfare can often not be ensured during long transports. “We strongly advocate a shift from transporting live animals to a trade in meat and carcasses, as well as genetic material,” the paper reads. Animal rights organisation Eurogroup for Animals welcomed the advance. “The shift to meat and carcasses trade is the only way forward to protect animals, people and the environment,” said Reineke Hameleers, the organisation’s CEO. (Julia Dahm | EURACTIV.de)

POLAND
Poland has announced that it is in favour of putting end to mink farming in Europe after joining forces with other EU countries to push the European Commission into banning mink farming in Europe because of the COVID-19 threat the animals pose to humans. Minks have been culled on farms in Poland and other EU countries after the animals became infected with COVID-19 and it was feared that they could become grounds for new mutations. The issue was presented at the last meeting of the EU Agriculture Council on 28 June by the delegations of the Netherlands and Austria, supported by Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Slovakia. (Mateusz Kucharczyk | EURACTIV.pl)

FRANCE
More than 300 urban agriculture projects will be supported by the measure “shared gardens”, as part of the French recovery plan ‘France Relance’. Worth €17 million, the initiative allows communities, associations and social landlords to develop urban agriculture. The letter were a “great opportunity to strengthen peoples’ access to fresh and local food while also providing a true federative and pedagogical dimension to the residents of a neighbourhood”, according to the French ministry of agriculture and food. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)

UK
The UK government published its agricultural transition plan this week, outlining further details of the early rollout of the country’s Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme and what it will pay for. “As we develop our future agriculture policy, we want to support the choices that individual farm enterprises make,” reads the plan, adding that  this is why they have announced plans for an exit scheme to help farmers who want to exit the sector to do so “with dignity”, and it is why the UK is developing new grants to support farmers who want to invest in their business, reduce their costs and improve their profitability. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

IRELAND
A High Court rejection of an appeal against huge new Glanbia cheese plant is a “win for ordinary farming families”, according to Laois Offaly Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagn, who, as reported in the Leinster Express this wek, said that the plant will “support the lives and livelihoods of 4,500 farm families across the South East and beyond and create hundreds of jobs during construction.” “Our farmers are the custodians of our environment and they are constantly working to protect it and improve sustainability,” he added. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

GREECE
The European Commission has approved a €20 million Greek scheme to support breeders of pigs and native black pigs and producers of honey in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure will partially address the loss of income suffered by the beneficiaries due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Greek government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

NETHERLANDS
The European Commission has also approved a €20 million Dutch scheme to support producers active in the primary agricultural and horticultural sectors affected by the coronavirus outbreak and by the restrictive measures that the Dutch government had to implement in order to limit the spread of the virus. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

Events

5 July – EURACTIV is holding a virtual conference to discuss current and forthcoming EU food policies that aim to create healthy food environments for EU citizens.

5 July – The European Commission, alongside industry stakeholders, will officially launch the EU Code of Conduct on responsible food business and marketing practices in a virtual event.

6 July – EURACTIV is holding a virtual conference to discuss how to ensure that regulations on food safety and sustainability can be science- and evidence-based and how to best communicate them to policymakers and the wider public

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