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Agrifood Brief: A rare united front – EURACTIV.com – EURACTIV

By EURACTIV's Agrifood Team and Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com
28-10-2022 (updated: 28-10-2022 )
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Agriculture lawmakers in the European Parliament are united in their outrage toward a recent proposal by the EU executive, in which farming emissions are counted as those from industry.
“We were almost entirely unanimous here,” were the surprising words uttered by Green MEP Benoît Biteau in this week’s joint meeting of the environment (ENVI) and agriculture (AGRI) committees, the latter of which is well known for its internal clashes.
“What we observed was that the Commission’s proposal was not at all admissible,” the Green said. “For once, the Commission succeeded in something: they got us all to rally behind the rejection of a text that they have put forward to us,” he continued.
The matter that so united the views of the agri-MEPs is the current proposal to amend the directive on industrial emissions (IED), which was presented last April.
As it stands, the directive already covers a small number of livestock farms – about 4% of EU pig and poultry farms. According to the Commission, the evaluation of the directive showed that it has been successful in bringing down emissions in a proportionate manner.
Now, the EU executive believes that the framework can be adapted to provide for a larger portion of the livestock sector, in aid of creating an emission reduction pathway in line with the EU’s Green Deal objectives and the EU’s methane strategy.
As such, its proposal extends the scope of the directive to cattle and lowers the thresholds for pigs and poultry, thereby covering 13% of the largest cattle, pigs, and poultry farms across Europe, which represent 60% of ammonia and 43% of methane emissions from the EU’s livestock sector.
The Commission has defended its proposal, saying that it will leave the overwhelming majority of the EU’s 1.5 million farms out of the scope of the directive and pay attention to the nature, type, size, and density of farms of each rearing activity.
For instance, they intend to address the specifics of pasture-based cattle systems, where animals are only seasonally reared in indoor installations.
However, the proposal has been firmly rejected by agriculture lawmakers. Though they were granted exclusive competence on the definitions included in the directive, they share competence with the ENVI committee on the main provisions related to the rearing of animals.
“I have a radical opinion on the situation,” said Belgian centre-right MEP Benoît Lutgen, rapporteur on the file for the AGRI committee. To consider farming as an industry is “awful,” he continued, stressing the importance of drawing a line between industrial and family farming.
Indeed, the main reason for the ‘united’ opposition is a conceptual one. It chiefly concerns a comparison of the livestock sector to other industrial ones.
An increasing anti-livestock sentiment is perceived by the rearing sector, such as the organisers of the International Summit on the Role of Meat in Society. Held in Dublin on 19-20 October, the summit launched the so-called Dublin Declaration on the critical role of meat in society to challenge these concerns.
Meanwhile, for socialist MEP Paolo De Castro, the new directive risks “additional administrative burden for the smallest, and therefore the weakest, farms.”
The opinion drafted by the AGRI rapporteur Lutgen stressed that the Commission’s proposal could actually force a higher concentration of industrial farming and a drastic decrease in small farms.
The main issue at ‘steak’ is where the EU lawmakers will set the threshold for applying anti-pollution rules.
In the Commission proposal, the directive will cover all industrial farms with more than 150 livestock units (LSUs).
One unit consists of the grazing equivalent of one adult dairy cow producing 3,000 kg of milk annually. According to these calculations, 150 livestock units are equivalent to 150 adult cows, or 375 calves, or 10,000 laying hens, or 500 pigs, or 300 sows.
The IED fight between the Commission and lawmakers will continue until the end of the legislative mandate.
But it is also curious to notice that, in a period of relative legislative calm – in which the most exciting thing has been the presentation of a non-strategy on fertilisers – the most heated debate comes from outside the traditional realm of farming files.
By Gerardo Fortuna
This week, EURACTIV’s agrifood team explores the main aspects of the current reform of geographical indications (GIs), the EU’s food quality scheme.
We spoke to the key players in the reform on a range of pending issues, from online protection for …
This week, EURACTIV’s agrifood team explores the main aspects of the current reform of geographical indications (GIs), the EU’s food quality scheme, speaking to key players in the reform on a range of pending issues, from online protection for GIs to the simplification of registration procedures, as well as the increased role of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). 
MEPs call for mental health initiative in farming
Members of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee (AGRI) have called for concerted efforts to support mental health for EU farmers as pressures mount on the already strained sector. Natasha Foote reports.
South African pest poses serious risk to EU citrus producers, MEPs warn
EU producers cannot afford any confusion or loosening of controls on imports of citrus fruits from South Africa, MEPs have warned, stressing the spread of pests could imperil the sector, but the Commission insists its measures are sufficient. Learn more.
Cut animal transport times to reduce rise of superbugs, says EU agency
Animal transportation times should be cut to reduce the risk of spreading antimicrobial resistance, according to a new scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Natasha Foote has more.
EU and Germany bet on ‘smart villages’ in rural development bid
Germany is pushing ahead with the development of smart villages – a move EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said was crucial for developing rural areas. Julia Dahm has the details.
GIs will not be treated as ‘trademark’, EU intellectual property head says
Geographical indications (GIs) will not lose features that make them different from other Intellectual Property (IP) rights by moving competencies from the European Commission to the EU’s intellectual property office (EUIPO), its head told EURACTIV’s Agrifood Editor Gerardo Fortuna in an interview.
Parliament rapporteur optimistic on LULUCF. Conservative lawmaker Norbert Lins, one of the European Parliament’s negotiators for the revamp of the EU land use (LULUCF) regulation, showed himself optimistic that a compromise on the creation of a merged agriculture, forestry, and other land use (AFOLU) pillar can be reached between Parliament, member states, and Commission. “We are on the right track and we think our ambitions can be taken on board,” Lins told agriculture lawmakers during a committee meeting on Monday (24 October). The creation of an AFOLU pillar would mean that – positive or negative – land use emissions from the agricultural sector would be reported together with those from forestry.
Long-term vision for rural areas. A draft resolution on a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas was adopted by the European Parliament’s agriculture committee this week. The resolution, led by socialist rapporteur Isabel Carvalhais stressed the key role of rural areas and call for immediate EU and national measures tailored to the needs of the rural areas. It will be now put to a plenary vote, possibly during the December session.
Waste not, want not. According to the first EU-wide monitoring of food waste published by Eurostat this week, in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, around 127 kg of food per inhabitant were wasted in the EU. Households generated 55% of food waste, accounting for 70 kg per inhabitant, while the remaining 45% was waste generated upwards in the food supply chain. Learn more.
Sustainable food systems law. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has released a new position paper on the EU Sustainable Food Systems Law framework and makes recommendations for how to bring about a sustainable food system that benefits people’s health, public health, biodiversity welfare and future food security. At an event marking the launch of the paper, food safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides stressed the importance of the law, adding that crises cannot be used as an excuse to delay policy initiatives to green the sector. The proposal for the law is expected in the third quarter of 2023.
Endangered animal breeds. The European Commission adopted the creation of a new EU Reference Centre this week which will be responsible for exploring methods for the preservation of endangered animal breeds, or the preservation of the genetic diversity existing within those breeds. This centre comes after the request from competent authorities of some member states and the industry.
Agri-trade update. Both EU agri-food exports and imports slowed down very slightly in value terms in July 2022, according to the latest monthly agri-food trade report published this week by the European Commission. While the value of EU exports decreased by 2% compared to June and now stands at €19.2 billion, they still remain significantly higher than last year. Meanwhile, total agri-food trade increased substantially between the EU and the UK, making it the EU’s top trade partner.
Green support for Morocco. The Commission adopted a new programme worth €115 million to support the ecological, inclusive and innovative development of Morocco’s agricultural and forestry sectors this week. The programme ‘Terre Verte’ aims to contribute to the national strategies of Morocco between 2020-2030 by promoting an “ecological transition conducive to the creation of decent work opportunities in Morocco in the agricultural and forestry sector”, according to a statement. Learn more.
Protected agrifood goods. The Commission has approved the addition of ‘Watercress’ from the UK in the register of Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).
New CAP plan approvals. The European Commission approved the CAP strategic plans for Croatia, Slovenia and Sweden on Friday (28 October). More information on each plan, as well as the breakdown of their CAP budget, can be found in the Commission’s ‘at a glance’ documents.
UK
British meat industry warns new red tape could hammer exports to EU

New UK government regulations set to come into force in December could prevent thousands of British meat producers from exporting to the European Union, the industry warned on Tuesday (25 October). Learn more.
AUSTRIA
Minister on CAP tour. Agriculture minister Norbert Toschnig started a “food security tour” of different Austrian regions on Thursday (27 October) in order to “speak to farmers about current challenges and the opportunities provided by the Common Agricultural Policy from 2023.” Speaking at the launch event, Totschnig said “we live in times of multiple crises”, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Covid pandemic, and the climate crisis. “Exchanging directly with farmers is a key concern for me,” he stressed. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)
CZECHIA
High energy prices lead to massive layoffs. Inflation and high energy prices will lead to further company redundancies, experts warned after 13 Czech companies announced mass lay-offs in August and September. The food industry as an energy-intensive sector is likely to be among the most hard-hit. Read the full story. (Aneta Zachová I EURACTIV.cz)
GREECE
Farmers call for cheaper oil. Farmers in the Greek region of Thessaly are holding meetings to gear up to put pressure on the government through protests, according to media reports. At the heart of their demands are improvements in production costs and generous support for agricultural fuel. Farmers themselves argue that the 68 million given as a refund on agricultural oil for all crops is far from sufficient in the face of current oil prices. To help the situation, they call for tax-free oil, in the same way that ship-owners and hoteliers in the country can already but oil free of tax. (Marianthi Pelekanaki | EURACTIV.gr)
SPAIN
Veggie sector calls for reduced VAT. The Spanish Association of Plant-based Food and Beverage Producers has called on the government to apply a reduced VAT of 4%, which is already in place for milk and meat, on vegetarian products as well. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro has more.
FRANCE
Minister talks fight against Brucellosis.  French agriculture minister Marc Fesneau visited the region of Haute-Savoie on Monday (24 October) to discuss the fight against Brucellosis, an infectious disease caused by the ingestion of unpasteurized milk or undercooked meat that is widespread in the region. Fesneau presented a roadmap for the region to eliminate the disease, which he stressed “has severe impacts on farms and is contagious for humans.” (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)
GERMANY
New bird flu outbreaks. New cases of avian influenza were reported in several regions in the North and Northwest of Germany during the past week, including on several large farms with many thousands of animals, according to the relevant authorities. Protection zones were put in place around the affected farms, but the string of outbreaks has left poultry producers worried. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)
4 November | Coreper I
8 November | Responsible use of antibiotics
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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