EFSA chief interview, realistic targets for pesticides, cheap honey

Your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU.

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.

Being equipped with the right methods to assess industry’s rapidly changing innovation will be a key challenge for the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), Bernhard Url, the EU food watchdog’s chief, told EURACTIV.com in a wide-ranging interview. Read more here.

Agrifood news this week

Commission wants ‘realistic targets’ for pesticide, fertilisers cuts: Kyriakides
Speaking before the environment committee of the European Parliament, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides confirmed that Europe’s Farm to Fork Strategy will also feature legislative actions and that there will be specific targets for reduction of both risk and use of pesticides. Read more here.

Struggling beekeepers undercut by cheap honey imports, says new report
European honey producers are calling for an emergency action plan to be put in place to save the sector, pointing to a drop in production across the EU and a rise in cheap imports. Read more here.

LEAK: EU plans ‘common data spaces’ to exploit agriculture and health potential
The EU aims to create common data spaces to increase the quality of services when it comes to agriculture and healthcare, according to a European Commission data strategy draft seen by EURACTIV.com. Sarantis Michalopoulos has the story.

CAP spending faces further €5bn cut in bloc’s budget blueprint
In the latest compromise proposal for the next EU 7-year spending plan, fresh money allocated to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) was trimmed by €7.5 billion, only partly offset by a €2.5 billion increase in direct payments to farmers. Gerardo Fortuna has the details.

New fisheries committee chair: ‘UK has the fish, but Europe has the market’
In his first interview as the new chair of the parliamentary committee on fisheries (PECH), Renew Europe MEP Pierre Karleskind called for a fisheries agreement with the UK that recreates the current situation whereby EU fishermen can have access to British waters and UK seafood can be sold on the Single Market. Read more here.

DG AGRI backs new breeding techniques for pest management
Tasos Haniotis, the deputy director-general at European Commission’s DG AGRI, views new breeding techniques as a way to manage pests in agriculture, according to a leaked document seen by EURACTIV.com. Read here for more details.

Quote of the Week

“I cannot be more clear that we will have, in Farm to Fork, specific targets both for the risk and the use of pesticides ”

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, speaking before the Environment Committee of the European Parliament

Agrifood news from around Europe

Amidst concern over a lack of workers post-Brexit, the seasonal workers pilot scheme has been expanded fourfold in a bid to boost the workforce on UK farms. The scheme, first announced in 2018, gives farming businesses the opportunity to employ migrant workers for up to six months. Read more here. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)ITALY
Unseasonably high temperatures well above the average and frequent sunny days in February awoke roughly 50 billion bees this month in Italy, according to farmers’ organisation Coldiretti. The lives of many of these bees are now in danger as temperatures are expected to drop before spring starts. Read more here. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)

Spanish farmers have scaled up their demonstrations this week, with actions throughout the country in demand of fair prices and sustainable solutions for the country’s agricultural sector, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
In 2050, European agriculture should see an increase in exports but a decrease in arable land, which will favour an agroecological transition, according to a study published on 14 February by French research institute INRA. EURACTIV’s partner, the Journal de l’environnement, reports on EURACTIV.fr.

One in every two farms in Germany could close in the next twenty years, according to a recent study by DZ Bank. While the current number of German farms sits at around 267,000, the authors expect this to drop to 100,000 by 2040, as large factory farms drive out smaller family-owned operations. The study also highlights how digitalisation has led to job losses, concluding that of the 1.9 million jobs that existed in agriculture in 1991, only 650,000 of them remain. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

The agricultural land act is undergoing new changes again. However, the Parliamentary committee on agriculture ran into problems on Friday regarding discussions on the availability of state-owned agricultural land. Read more here. (Karla Juničić | EURACTIV.hr)

In a meeting ahead of the upcoming budget summit,  Agricultural Minister Elisabeth Köstinger met with her Hungarian counterpart, István Nagy, where both agreed that the current cuts to the CAP are “unacceptable”. Under the current proposal, Austria stands to lose €28 million in direct payments from the CAP. “We agreed that the manifold services provided by agriculture must be compensated, and this is only possible if the CAP is designed accordingly,” Köstinger said. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

The Polish government is pushing for a fairer deal for Polish farmers so that they receive direct payments on par with farmers from Germany or France. “Over the past month, I have talked with 15 EU agriculture ministers. I said that Europe is now different and maintaining mechanisms made 30 years ago is some kind of absurdity. Other countries are generally beginning to understand this, “said Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski. In Poland, the average direct payment per hectare is €240, while in Germany it is €269. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)

On our radar this week

After publicly tweeting his concern over animal welfare and intensive farming last week, EU agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski will receive Ms Reineke Hameleers, director of Eurogroup for Animals, this week. See here for more background on this subject.

There is an extraordinary European Council on the EU’s long-term budget this Thursday (20 February), where EU leaders will try to find an agreement on CAP spending for the next seven years

Upcoming events 

  • 20-21 February – BIOEAST Conference, a high-level conference on deploying sustainable and circular bioeconomies in Central and Eastern Europe in the context of food, agriculture, natural resources and bioeconomy related policies. See here for more information.
  • 21 February – Halting the loss of pollinators: The role of the EU agricultural and region. See here for more information.
  • 22 February to 1 March 2020 – Salon International de l’Agriculture in Paris, an annual agricultural show and trade fair. EU agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski will attend the event on 22 February. See here for more details.

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