Farmers reluctantly accept break in EU agri-food strategy



Madrid, Apr 7 (EFECOM) .- The association of European farmers COPA-COGECA has “reluctantly” supported the delay in the implementation of the “Farm to Fork” (F2F) strategy of the European Union (EU) after the enormous pressure that the coronavirus crisis is having on the European agricultural sector, but that “temporary parenthesis” has also received strong criticism.

The secretary general of COPA-COGECA, the Finn Pekka Pesonen, assures, in a letter addressed to Norbert Lins, president of the European Parliament’s agriculture commission (AGRI), that “farmers, forest owners and their cooperatives face an increasingly complex situation ”due to the crisis, reported the European portal EURACTIV.com, partner of Efeagro.

The expansion of the coronavirus pandemic is already producing “rapid and negative domino effects in the agricultural and forestry sectors”, and those consequences will be felt – it is assured – both “in the short and medium and long term”, according to the pan-European platform of farmers.

Speaking to EURACTIV.com, Pesonen said that the general crisis facing the sector across Europe is already making its impact felt in a profound way, and that new restrictive measures stemming from special measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic (Covid -19) are a new hard blow for the sector.

Appeal to the European Parliament

In his letter to the European Parliament, Pesonen says that this crisis could place at a vital crossroads “both the single market (of the EU) and international markets, threatening supply chains, endangering jobs and, at the end, the food security of the EU ”.

In this sense, the European agricultural leader calls on MEPs to “postpone any decision that cannot (be) taken after adequate reflection, in a balanced way.” It also calls on the European Parliament for the EU to implement measures to safeguard and guarantee the functioning of agricultural activity in the European Union.

Taking into account the breadth of the pandemic and its foreseeable impact in the short, medium and long term, sources close to Brussels speak of a new delay in the implementation of the “From Farm to Table” strategy, which was initially postponed until end of this April.

This strategy, which will be integrated into Brussels’ “star” policy, the European Green Pact, aims to make the entire food chain more sustainable, from production to consumer, and also to significantly reduce its impact on the environment. .

“If the proposal were to continue, it would be a sign of sheer ignorance and indifference to the real situation that both agriculture and the primary sectors are facing right now,” says Pesonen.

Avoid an “additional burden” for farmers

At the same time, the Finn adds that although COPA-COGECA has given its support to the European Green Pact and the “From Farm to Table” strategy, the latter will add “new limitations” to the current circumstances, which are already very complex due to the pandemic, without offering farmers suitable alternatives in return.

Furthermore, the pan-European farmers association insists, the “From Farm to Table” strategy will have “significant economic, social and environmental impacts”. For all these reasons, COPA-COGECA calls on the European Commission to carry out a preliminary impact assessment for both the “F2F” strategy and the Green Pact in its entirety, before making any political decision or having a future impact on the European regulatory field.

At the same time, the letter assures that this “is even more relevant when it comes to establishing objectives such as reducing the use of pesticides, fertilizers or antibiotics.”

The popular Europeans also ask for an extension

For its part, the European People’s Party (PPE), the main force of the Eurochamber followed by the Socialists (S&D), has also called for the “F2F” strategy to be postponed again until, at least, the summer, due to the ” crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic ”.

The President of the European People’s Party (PPE), Donald Tusk. EFEAGRO / Stephanie Lecocq

After the initial decision to postpone the strategy, Norbert Lins expressed his support for this measure through the twitter social network, ensuring that all parties involved deserve to be heard, “especially in times like these, in which food security is very important ”.

Discordant voices

However, in statements to EURACTIV.com, Henriette Christensen, senior policy adviser on the platform “Pesticide Action Network Europe”, said that “we have never had a more favorable time (than the present) for the EU to publish its strategies 2030 relevant for food and biodiversity ”.

“Those strategies set a vision for 2030 and therefore create stability, provide some certainty in a period with many uncertainties for all,” added Christensen.

“I find it rather strange that COPA-COGECA urges MEPs to make a decision quickly on the proposal to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but at the same time request a delay in the publication of the biodiversity and F2F strategies” he stressed. The preparation of an impact risk assessment plan takes “at least a year,” he added. “The way forward for the EU should be, first of all, to publish the 2030 strategies, and, as part of this, to identify the relevant objectives for the reduction of the use of pesticides (and of antibiotics and fertilizers), which would allow an ecological transition, and then deciding how to spend the € 60 billion the EU is using in the CAP to achieve that goal. Doing it the other way around doesn’t make sense, ”he says.

Future dangers to EU food systems

For her part, also in statements to EURACTIV.com, the head of European agricultural affairs at the NGO Greenpeace, Sini Eräjää, shared the same opinion, and assured that “the great lesson of this pandemic is: listen to the scientists, and act in consecuense”.

“Farmers need help to manage the crisis, but science tells us that the nature and biodiversity crisis will put our food systems in even greater danger in the coming years. If we don’t start helping farmers right now (to make) the transition to organic farming, we will have to face food shortages when climate change hits hardest, ”he said.

On the other hand, Nikolai Pushkarev, coordinator of political affairs at the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) has assured that “unfortunately this health crisis is being used as a pretext to postpone the ‘From Farm to Table’ strategy ‘, an important initiative that has to do with the sustainability of the food system, which is at the center of Europeans’ concern today ”.

“Much more regrettable is hearing statements that the F2F strategy is, fundamentally, a burden on farmers, rather than (an instrument) that guarantees the future viability of the food system,” says Pushkarev.

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