Unlocking greater collaboration between the EU and Member States to deliver food system transformation
Annual Conference 2022 session 2 summary
Sunday, Apr 17, 2022
Opening session 2 at the Annual Conference, Geneviève Pons, Director General of Europe – Jacques Delors in Brussels, considered the national strategy plans to be “a laudable intention to give more responsibility to member states” in implementing the common agricultural policy (CAP). However, she pointed to the absence of a direct link between the European Green Deal and the CAP and the inability of the Commission to reject a strategic plan if it does not comply with the EU’s wider environmental targets.
She highlighted that the Farm to Fork strategy is a step in the right direction, but fails to provide “the solid legal and political framework for the sustainable food system we need”. Calling for a clear compass to guide the transformation, she set out four ways a food policy could bridge EU and national activity. Policies need to be aligned under common objectives and principles, a long-term vision for transformation is required, the many separate initiatives should be brought together in a more coherent framework and responsibility for the transition must be fairly distributed along the food value chain.
During his remote intervention, Maciej Golubiewski, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, emphasised the importance of the EU and member states working “hand in hand” to deliver an ambitious food system transformation. He stressed that the new policy transfers significant responsibility to member states for its implementation through national strategic plans. When the Commission approves the plans, it will ensure the necessary “connection between the agri-relevant parts of the Farm to Fork strategy and the new CAP”, while taking account of specific national circumstances.
Mr Golubiewski, pointed out that the strategy is sufficiently flexible to take account of short to medium-term needs caused by the war in Ukraine and will be carefully monitored for its impact on food, incomes and security.
In the panel discussion, Achim Irimescu, Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU, supported the move towards green food, but reminded the audience “we also have to bear in mind that agriculture should deliver sustainable food and food security”. He indicated most national strategic plans could be adopted before the summer and operate from January 2023. Legislation is also necessary to ensure proper implementation. He stressed the need for support to farmers in the challenges ahead. “It is very complicated for farmers to meet all these high standards without support from the entire food chain,” he said.
Zeno Piatti, Austrian Farmer, Vice-President of the Austrian Land&Forst Betriebe, maintained that the debate was “a little bit naïve”. “Farmers are not going green simply because it doesn’t pay us. So, we are not acting accordingly,” he explained. That extra income should come either from higher prices for farmers or from public payments. He called for a redesign of supply chains to strengthen the position of farmers and payments for eco-system services that protect biodiversity and provide a stable climate.
Mr Piatti criticised the national strategic plans, saying they were going in totally different directions. “We have distortions of the market where neighbouring farms with a border in between just compete on totally different levels.”
During the dialogue, Professor Peter Pickel, John Deere Fellow and Manager External Relations, explained the vision behind the transition to agriculture 4.0. “We treat each plant as an individual.” Providing exact plant protection measures, fertilisers and water minimises inputs, maximises outputs and increases farmers’ incomes.
He called on governments to ensure that farmers have access to the finance needed to invest in the new technologies that will help them be more sustainable than in the past. Behind those technologies, he stressed, is the conviction “that they are giving the customer a value”.