Big changes for EU agriculture
18 Aug 2020
They seek a new structure around national plans with a much greater focus on environmental and climate action.
The new European Commission, which took office on December 1, 2019, under the presidency of the German Christian Democrat Ursula von der Leyen, aims to totally change the European economy, in a way that will mean big changes for agriculture, with a greater focus. on environmental performance, the reduction of the use of chemical inputs and a strong increase in the organic surface.
At the same time, EU-27 agriculture ministers are discussing proposals for the reform of the Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, based on a Commission proposal that builds a new structure around national plans with a much greater focus. in environmental and climate action.
To add uncertainty to a time of enormous change for Europe’s grain and oilseed producers and processors, the EU is renegotiating its budget. In any case, a new multiannual financial framework (MFF) was necessary as the previous mandate expires. There is the added complication of reshaping EU spending to account for the UK leaving the Union on January 31, with no certainty yet about a future relationship.
Added to all this is the effect of COVID-19, which has shut down most of the European economy during the second quarter of 2020. The Commission and the governments of the Member States acted quickly to ensure the supply of food and, in addition to the initial bottlenecks, There was little interruption in the supply to consumers, but the consumption pattern has changed dramatically. The closure of hotel, restaurant and catering establishments, for example, has meant a sharp drop in demand for cuts of meat such as steak and has disrupted the wine market. The von der Leyen Commission has come up with big plans to stimulate the economy, after the crisis.
European Green Deal
Introducing the European Green Deal on December 11, 2019, von der Leyen called the plan “our new growth strategy, for growth that gives back more than it takes away.”
“It shows how to transform the way we live and work, produce and consume so that we live healthier and make our businesses innovative,” he said. “We will help our economy to be a world leader by moving first and moving fast.” Von der Leyen also expressed the view that “by showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.”
Work on the Green Deal is led by Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans.
“Our plan sets out how to reduce emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for our citizens,” he said. “Our responsibility is to ensure that this transition is fair and that no one is left behind while we comply with the European Green Deal.”
Central to the detail is the target to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050, with the greenhouse gas emissions target by 2030 increased to at least 50% by 2030. If the rest of the world does not share the ambition of the EU on emissions, the Commission will propose a mechanism to adjust the carbon frontiers, to ensure that the price of imports reflects their carbon content. The measure will be designed to comply with WTO rules.
The Commission highlights the key role that agriculture plays. His proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy for 2021-2027 call for 40% of the CAP budget to contribute to climate action.
The PAC proposal is based on having national strategic plans to adapt the policy to local conditions. The actual introduction of the new policy is likely to be delayed until early 2022, and the Commission has said it will work with Member States to ensure that their plans reflect the ambition of the Green Deal and the Farm-to-Table Strategy. The idea is to introduce measures such as eco-schemes, rewarding farmers for improving environmental and climate performance, as well as reducing the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics.
Farm to table strategy
The farm-to-table strategy, unveiled on May 20, includes a commitment for the Commission to act to reduce the overall use of chemical pesticides by 50% with the use of more dangerous pesticides reduced by 50% by 2030. To do so, the Commission will promote changes in agricultural practices, including the use of alternative control methods, such as crop rotation and mechanical weeding.
It will also facilitate the commercialization of biological controls. It also plans to reduce soil nutrient losses by 50% without any deterioration in soil fertility, something it says will reduce fertilizer use by at least 20% by 2030.
Another concern is antimicrobial resistance (ADR). The Commission will aim to reduce total antimicrobial sales for farm animals and aquaculture in the EU by 50% by 2030.
An action plan on organic farming will be drawn up to increase the share of EU farmland that is organic to 25% by 2030. The plan also means reshaping food processing and retail.
“Food processors, foodservice operators, and retailers shape the marketplace and influence consumers’ dietary choices through the types and nutritional composition of the food they produce, the choice of suppliers, the methods production and packaging, transport, marketing and marketing practices “, communicates the Commission. in strategy he said. “As the world’s largest food importer and exporter, the EU food and beverage industry also affects the environmental and social footprint of world trade.”
The Commission makes many claims about the good its vision can do for the industry.
“Strengthening the sustainability of our food systems can help further build the reputations of companies and products, create shareholder value, improve working conditions, attract employees and investors, and confer competitive advantages, productivity gains, and cost reduction for companies. companies, “the Commission said.
He plans a code of practice for business and marketing and wants companies to commit to acting on health and sustainability, reformulating products, becoming more energy efficient and adapting marketing campaigns. They also want the industry to ensure that “food price campaigns do not undermine citizens’ perception of the value of food”, giving as an example that “marketing campaigns advertising meat at very low prices should be avoided. “.
Another call is for packaging reduction, and the Commission plans to review packaging legislation, support sustainable solutions, as well as reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in packaging.
The Commission promises farmers that it will improve their lives. In a fact sheet published the same day that the Farm-to-Table Strategy was published, the prospect of higher returns for farmers and food producers was presented, from production linked to higher consumer demand. The changes will improve the position of farmers in the food chain, create a closer link between them and consumers and reduce costs, he said.
The agricultural lobby weakened
One characteristic of the Green Deal process is that, to some extent, it appears to have bypassed the once powerful agricultural lobby in policymaking. President von der Leyen and Vice President Frans Timmermans have been the public voices of the Green Deal, with the rest of the EU executives lagging behind. The participation of Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski in launching the farm-to-table strategy was limited, with Stella Kyriadides, Cypriot, Health Officer, and Lithuanian Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkeviius, leading its launch. . Kyriakides called From farm to table, “the first time in the history of EU food policy that we propose a comprehensive agenda for all stages of food production”, explaining that it is viewed “particularly from the point of view of view of the consumer and the producer … putting them at the center of our focus. “
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of a resilient food system and food security, given the strong links between our health, ecosystems and supply chains,” he said. “This is just the latest reminder of many: Annual droughts, floods, wildfires and new pests are red flags that our food system must become more sustainable and resilient.”
However, Kyriakides emphasized support for agriculture.
“The Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy will support our primary producers through new streams of financing and ecological schemes to implement sustainable practices,” he promised. “Because without prosperous farmers, we will not ensure food security. Without a healthy planet, farmers will have nowhere to grow.”
Sinkeviius insisted that “we have really worked to get everyone involved: farmers, fishermen and women, businesses and consumers. Only if we all act together can we stop the dramatic loss of biodiversity that affects us all.”
In the absence of Wojciechowski, the only other member of the Commission at the launch of the two strategies was Frans Timmermans. He highlighted that biodiversity and farm-to-fork strategies are a central element of the EU recovery plan.
“They are crucial for our health, for our well-being and they are crucial for creating immediate business opportunities and investments so that we can restore the EU economy as quickly as possible,” he said.
The Dutchman also insisted that “it was not about telling people what to do.”
“It’s about telling people how they can make better informed decisions, so we give them what they deserve: more sustainable food, better information and to reinforce their right to choose,” he said. “Better-informed citizens are stronger citizens, which creates a stronger society.”