Agrifood Brief: A rare united front – – EURACTIV

By EURACTIV's Agrifood Team and Gerardo Fortuna |
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
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We spoke to the key players in the reform on a range of pending issues, from online protection for …
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4 November | Coreper I
8 November | Responsible use of antibiotics
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]


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