‘Time to listen to the data on farm-to-fork strategy,’ say EU farm groups

The actors in the food chain all agree with the main principles set out in the farm to fork strategy and are fully aware that constant and substantial improvements must be made to ensure a more sustainable approach to our food systems. Nonetheless, several recently published studies on the farm-to-fork strategy indicate that the current targets, if implemented as proposed, will come at a considerable cost to EU farmers and the viability of the entire market. European agri-food sector.

The days of political messages on the Farm to Fork strategy are over. Now is the time to analyze the data currently available. In recent months, several key reports and studies have attempted to assess and measure the impacts of the targets set by the European Commission when presenting the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies in May 2020.

Studies conducted by the USDA, HFFA Research, the EU Joint Research Center (JRC), University of Kiel as good as Wageningen University and Research (WUR) all conclude that there are several important impacts, trade-offs and blind spots that urgently need to be taken into account by policy makers in the EU (and beyond).

For example:

  • The JRC study predicts that the expected 40-60% reduction in GHG emissions from European agriculture resulting from the implementation of farm-to-fork targets will lead to the outsourcing of European agricultural production, including including its emissions, to third countries.
  • The University of Kiel study predicts that Europe could become a net importer of food, which is in direct contradiction to the open strategic autonomy promoted by the European Commission during the COVID crisis.
  • The USDA study concludes that the targets set in the farm-to-fork strategy could lead to food insecurity for 22 million people.

Why isn’t Europe looking at the data?

These studies, which each use different methodologies and have different focal points and limitations, all complement each other. They all come to the same conclusions. EU agricultural production will decline and quite drastically in some regions and for some products. For the cumulative impact of the objectives, the latest WUR study shows an average production drop of between 10 and 20% with a drop of up to 30% for certain crops.

Regarding animal production, the University of Kiel study reports a 20% reduction in European beef production and a 17% reduction in pig production on average. Another (soon to be released) WUR policy document confirms an overall decrease in beef, pork and dairy production, not only leading to higher prices for EU consumers, but also showing questionable effects on farmer incomes.

The data clearly show impacts on trade, on farmer incomes and, ultimately, on consumer prices. Changing the food system under these conditions will be more difficult, and imposing consumption taxes, as proposed by the European Parliament, could make it socially unfair.

All actors in the agrifood chain are aware of the environmental and climatic challenges we are facing today. We are all determined to play our part in the fight to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. European agricultural production is one of the most respectful of resources and the environment in the world. Nonetheless, European producers believe that with innovation and relevant support at the heart of EU agricultural policy, farmers will continue to produce even more sustainably. We recognize the expectations of society and policy makers in the area of ​​food production. However, a political goal not based on data will have deleterious effects on European agriculture. We need to build solution-oriented policies based on the data we have, innovation being their cornerstone.

In order to start talking about solutions, we need to have a common understanding of the challenges we face in pursuing our farm-to-fork goals. This common understanding should be based on a comprehensive and cumulative impact assessment carried out by the European Commission. Wageningen’s most recent study, with its different scenarios, clearly shows that the isolated assessment of the effects of farm-to-fork targets, as the Commission seems to be planning to do now, will only give a partial picture of the cumulative reality to which farmers and agro-food players in the field.

We also look forward to the Commission closing this debate on the need for a cumulative impact assessment. We ask for a full assessment because we want to understand where the issues are likely to arise so that we can discuss potential solutions.

Europe’s food production model, driven by the Common Agricultural Policy, has been one of the European Union’s greatest successes. We fail to understand the apparent attempt to hamper our progress and overlook our successes at a time when our trading partners are already talking about filling the production gaps left vacant by Europe.

Furthermore, if EU production declines, as all researchers who have assessed the impact of current Commission proposals clearly predict, EU imports of raw materials and agricultural ingredients are expected to increase significantly. significant, making the EU dependent on imports to feed its population. . This in turn would pose several political and food safety risks for European consumers.

It is high time that the European Commission carried out a comprehensive impact assessment. The farm-to-fork deadline is looming. Eight years for the agricultural sector is not that long. There is an urgent need to see concrete proposals and a more in-depth discussion of the choices we are making. That said, it needs to be based on better data.

Global agricultural media

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