Future culls on the cards if dairy emissions don’t subside

The EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, has warned that further culling of dairy herds will occur if environmental obligations are not reached by member states.

Speaking at a European Commission Ag Press seminar in Brussels last week, Commissioner Hogan cautioned that member states that are driving ahead on dairy expansion should be mindful of the significant cull enforced on the Netherlands last year, as the country consistently exceeded its phosphorus limits.

We expect every sector to meet its targets with respect to climate change and we already have targets that are there in regards to emissions around phosphorus and ammonia.

“Our friends in the Netherlands know all about this when they were asked to reduce their herd by 166,000 cows since last year to meet the limits that we’ve imposed at European level on member states – they have actually been enforced to comply with them,” he said.

“So, even though we have no milk quotas, we certainly have quotas in the form of environment obligations and these targets have to be met.

You can see that we are strongly enforcing those measures in the context of the Netherlands – and we will do so elsewhere as well.

At the time, the Dutch government presented farmers with financial incentives to reduce herd numbers.

Farmer solutions

Meanwhile, speaking at last week’s 2018 EU Agricultural Outlook Conference – presented at the European Commission – Hogan stressed his ambition to ensure that farmers are part of the solution to the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions challenge.

“It is clear that we have not achieved our objectives in climate and environment at the moment in agriculture.

“I want to see farmers at the centre of solutions on our international agreements and meeting our targets rather than regularly being accused of being part of the problem.

We have made some progress; there has been a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture since 1990 – but, nobody seems to acknowledge that. However, we have to do more.

The commissioner highlighted that under his proposed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020, he is aiming to double the amount of resources that have to be applied to climate and environmental action under Pillar I.

“Through our new delivery model we can enhance conditionality, our eco schemes and our agri-environmental measures.

“We hope that farmers will see that a mixture of voluntary and mandatory measures can meet our international agreements and our international obligations that were signed in 2015 in Paris and the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

He emphasised that farmers must embrace the environmental agenda.

“This is how we justify the budget and this is how we justify the future of farming – through the protection of our natural resources for the future generations of young farmers,” he said.

Digital First

The commissioner outlined that digitisation and the use of new technology “will be central” to the future development of agricultural production in Europe and in the “simplification and modernisation” of the CAP.

Digitisation can help farmers to address CAP objectives and improve significantly the sustainability of EU farming.

“Many digital solutions are already available. And, there is more to come with a tremendous potential to increase environmental and animal care, improve farmers’ returns while simplifying the life of farmers and administrations – thanks notably to the great amount of data collected through satellites and daily farming activity,” he said.