Food security and local farming ‘key priorities’ for EU agriculture ministers

Following the conclusion yesterday of the informal meeting of the EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the organisation that represents European farmers has highlighted what it believes should be the priorities of European agriculture ministers.

COPA COGECA, the umbrella group for European farming organisations, stressed the need for a focus on food security and local farming in the wake of the meeting, particularly due to the continued risk of Covid-19.

The individual presidents of COPA and COGECA, Joachim Rukwied and Ramon Armengol respectively, addressed the meeting of European agriculture ministers to raise these issues.

The outbreak of coronavirus is still causing a dramatic impact on rural areas across the EU, with both immediate and medium to long-term consequences in many sectors, as recognised by the European Commission.

“The EU’s medium to long-term response to the pandemic must be based on a solid and robust economic recovery programme that takes into consideration increased sustainability, a response to climate change and improved biodiversity protection,” Rukwied argued.

Rukwied also pointed out that, despite the partial reopening of some economic activities across the EU, the market situation in most sectors has not recovered substantially, and further market management measures are needed to assist farmers.

Rukwied stressed that food security, farming competitiveness and “decent incomes” for farmers are the “three key points” that should be taken into account for the EU’s Covid-19 recovery fund (Next Generation EU) and planning for a future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Meanwhile, COGECA president Armengol highlighted animal welfare when he took to the floor to speak.

Armengol argued that, while there is the potential for consumers to pay more for welfare-friendly products if they are well-informed about animal welfare, there is “no clear evidence that such a premium would be passed onto farmers”.

He also stressed that there are “many false accusations made about the livestock sector”, and that communication campaigns targeting consumers were necessary.

On the issue of animal transport, Armengol said: “When properly implemented and enforced, the EU legislation on the transport of animals has a positive impact on the welfare of animals. We advocate for a full and harmonised implementation of this legislation at member state level.”

Ireland represented at meeting, despite no minister

Despite fears that Ireland would not have any representation at this meeting – with the country between ministers at the moment – Ireland did in fact have a representative.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed that the secretary general of the department, Brendan Gleeson, attended the meeting – which was a physical meeting rather than a virtual meeting, which was the case in recent meetings due to Covid-19.

The department spokesperson said on Friday (August 28) that the department was putting plans in place to ensure Ireland had a voice at the meeting, which took place in Koblenz, Germany.