POLITICO Pro’s Morning Agriculture and Food, presented by ECPA: TTIP leak today — EFSA — UTPs
Keep your eyes peeled for TTIP news this week. It could be nothing, or it could be big. More below.
TTIP LEAK EXPECTED TODAY: Greenpeace Netherlands got its hands on 248 pages of leaked EU and U.S. negotiating positions during the last round of TTIP talks, which concluded Friday. Keep your ears pricked, because it will release the results today at 11 a.m. A Greenpeace statement said updates on “pesticides, food and agriculture” issues are contained in the documents cache. The statement also raised concerns about the alleged absence of the “General Exceptions” rule, which is enshrined in the GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization and allows trade restrictions “to protect human, animal and plant life or health.” Director of Greenpeace EU Jorgo Riss said in a statement: “We have known that the EU position was bad, now we see the U.S. position is even worse. A compromise between the two would be unacceptable.” The statement: http://bit.ly/1SEluPi
— No info on GIs: France’s Le Monde has seen the documents, but is respecting Greenpeace’s embargo and keeping quiet. However, it has released a breakdown of what’s in the cache. The negotiating positions on agriculture, as well as sanitary and phytosanitary measures, will be leaked. But we’ll learn nothing new about Geographic Indications. Read the article (in French): http://bit.ly/1Nfd0xJ
— Just for fun: Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore reported Friday that counterfeit GIs in the EU are worth an estimated €4.3 billion a year. Think how much more that would be if it also included products like non-Italian parmesan cheese taking up shelf space in U.S. supermarkets. The story (in Italian): http://bit.ly/1Nfg9xy.
EFSA ACCUSED OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Barbara Gallani starts her new job as head of communications for the European Food Safety Authority today. However, NGO Corporate Europe Observatory suggested Friday she’s not fit for the role because of her past work as a British food and drink industry lobbyist. In order to ward off accusations, EFSA said Gallani wouldn’t interact with lobby groups she used to work for, and would “abstain from the review or consideration of any file triggered by the British food and drink industry.” The NGO says this will be “impossible to implement” because it means steering clear of some of the largest food companies in the world, such as Nestle, Mars and Cargill. It also worried about Gallani’s links to Safe and Local Supplier Approval (SALSA), an industry-linked food-safety group where she served on the board. “Since most of EFSA’s workload is about assessing the risks of the food industry’s products, which in turn determines these products’ market authorisation, the conflict of interest is obvious,” it wrote.
— EFSA disagrees: “[Corporate Europe Observatory] communication shows a misunderstanding regarding Ms. Gallani’s role. Ms Gallani and the staff in EFSA’s communication department are not in a position to exert influence on EFSA’s scientific assessments nor does she or her staff have a role to play in EFSA’s scientific decision-making processes,” an EFSA spokesperson told Morning Agri. The spokesperson also confirmed that Gallani resigned from the board of SALSA as soon as she got the job. CEO’s brief: http://bit.ly/1VXr5m4.
**A message from the European Crop Protection Association: Pesticides help deliver a secure, safe and affordable food supply. Without pesticides farmers would lose a significant portion of crop yields. Consider the facts. Join the debate #WithOrWithout #pesticides?**
GOOD MORNING and welcome to Morning Agriculture and Food, your bumper crop of EU food and agriculture news! It’s Monday, yes, but beat the blues by listening to the Cure’s ‘Friday I’m in Love’: http://bit.ly/1NfrrBZ. Works every time, swear down. Send praise for my taste in music, as well as tips, to email@example.com or @L4ingstone. Future of food safety, Polish land law, troubled farm finances, and more good grazing below.
FOOD-SAFETY GROUP URGES FORWARD THINKING: The SAFE consortium, a food-safety research group, wants us to think about new foods and the challenges they bring before it’s too late. In a position paper released Friday, the group pointed out that new food production techniques as well as efforts to implement a circular economy in the food chain could lead to so-far unknown microbial activity, which could prove harmful if left unstudied. “In the periods between newsworthy food safety outbreaks, the general sense of public awareness of the safety of food, and even perhaps official vigilance, may start to fade. This is a tremendous risk and one that we aim to avoid,” said the group. Among other things, the it wants more attention to be paid to the safety of food chain by-products, harmonized standards for the testing of novel foods, and using big data to assess risks. The position paper is jargon and buzzword heavy, but you should read it anyway: http://bit.ly/1TDF50R.
POLISH FARMLAND LAW IN EFFECT: Poland’s law restricting the sale farmland to foreigners came into effect Saturday. The country received a 12-year opt-out preventing non-Poles from buying rural land when it joined the EU in 2004 — basically to stop rich Westerners (read Germans) hoovering up cheap land. That term is now up, but the worries about foreign ownership remain. EU law forbids discrimination along national lines, so the Polish government instead passed a law stopping land sales from the national landowning agency for five years, as well as restricting private land sales. Only people who have lived in area for five years, and pledge to farm, can buy land from the government. “The goal of the law is to keep the current structure of Polish farming, with mainly fairly small family farms,” said Piotr Semeniuk, an analyst with Polityka Insight, a think tank. POLITICO’s Jan Cienski has the whole story: http://politi.co/1VXIv1H. More detail: http://bit.ly/1TDIGvO.
— But rich Germans have their own worries: The Commission is taking the German government to court over high levels of nitrate fertilizer found in groundwater. It’s been pressuring Germany to bring its nitrates legislation up to speed for years, but to little avail. Nitrates are a common fertilizer, however, they can seep into the water supply and cause algae build ups — which can affect human health. Deutsche Welle has the story: http://bit.ly/1TDJ9hA, the Commission has the statement: http://bit.ly/1TDJkcV.
A FIFTH OF BRITISH FARMS ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE: The Prince’s Countryside Fund, a British agricultural and rural charity, released a report on the “cash flow crisis” in U.K farming Friday. It paints a grim picture. Farmers’ cash flow is hit on almost all fronts: farmgate prices are in their third year of decline, commodity prices are continuing to fall, 20 percent of farmers generated a loss before accounting for overheads, and borrowing has doubled over the past decade. Perhaps the most stark conclusion — nearly 20 percent of farms have financial problems so severe “they are are unlikely to pay off their short term debt.” Nearly half of farmers surveyed for the report also complained about late CAP payments (that’s national or regional governments’ fault by the way — not the Commission’s). “There is no immediate prospect of the situation improving so that 20 per cent figure could continue to increase,” PCF chairman Lord Don Curry told Farmers Guardian Insight, a British trade journal.
— Knock-on effects: The report says the disturbing financial situation isn’t limited to farmers. Businesses that depend on farming, such as machinery and feed suppliers, are also feeling the pinch.
— Recommendations: The PCF calls for better communication between all stakeholders, teaching farmers better business skills, and, (surprise), forking out CAP money on time. But it also talks about making “emotional support” available to farmers. Reading between the lines, this means a proportion of these farm businesses are expected to fail.
DUTCH PIG FARMERS ON THE WAY OUT: Five pig-farming companies went bankrupt in the Netherlands during first quarter of 2016. That’s as many as in the whole of 2015. “Every 10 years the number of companies halves,” Robert Hoste, an economist, told Dutch trade journal Nieuwe Oogst. On top of that, some pig farmers are so cash-strapped they’re starving their pigs, according to a report in De Gelderlander, a regional Dutch paper. Animal welfare inspectors are turning up hundreds of dead animals every month. Read the Nieuwe Oogst piece (in Dutch): http://bit.ly/1NfhB34, and the Gelderlander piece (also in Dutch): http://bit.ly/1NfhLaA.
FARM LOBBY TO ZERO IN ON UNFAIR TRADING PRACTICES: The newly elected chairman of COPA-COGECA’s food chain working party, Joe Healy, said Friday he will prioritize wresting power (and money) back from the retailers. “Perpetual unfair trading practices puts farmers — the weakest link in this chain — in an extremely difficult situation where, quite often, farm-gate prices do not even cover farmers’ production costs,” said Healy in a statement. “We need to have legislation at EU level that combined with voluntary codes of practice can redress the balance and ensure fairness and transparency in the functioning of the food supply.” Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) is the generic term used to refer to abuses of the powerful bargaining position of buyers over food producers, such as demanding changes to an order without reflecting farmers’ incurred costs in the payment.
— The retailers’s view: Retailers think EU legislation won’t work and they don’t want more red tape. “We know there is a crisis in the farming sector and I think it needs to be resolved,” Christian Verschueren, the director-general of retail lobby EuroCommerce, told Morning Agri. “But farmers are always confusing issues around price volatility and UTPs. It is totally wrong to believe full [European] regulation will resolve these issues,” he said. Verschueren added UTPs were still a problem in member states with stringent regulation.
COMMISSION EXTENDS CAP PAYMENTS APPLICATION DEADLINE: The European Commission decided Friday to allow member countries to extend applications for CAP payments. Farmers originally had to fill out of their paperwork by May 15, but they now have until June 15 to make their claims. The decision came after multiple countries asked the Commission for leniency: Farmers, already under huge pressure from falling incomes, need to file reams of complicated paperwork in order to receive EU money. “The Commission’s decision to extend this exceptional flexibility reflects the severity of the economic situation in certain agricultural markets,” said European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan. “It is anticipated that this relaxation of the rules will help some farmers with specific difficulties in submitting their application/claims in time.” More: http://bit.ly/1Nenxcz.
FISHERMEN’S LABOR RIGHTS TO IMPROVE: The Commission announced Friday that it will align EU law to International Labor Organization guidelines for the fishing sector. It will propose legislation that will define minimum ages for fishermen, proper employment contracts and occupational safety rules. Fishing is a dangerous job: The threat of drowning notwithstanding, fishermen work long hours and manipulate heavy machinery. Read more: http://bit.ly/1NfjDjM.
— French wheat exports:… are stalled because Indonesia is angry about France’s plan to tax palm oil, a major Indonesian export. Reuters has the story: http://reut.rs/1Nfo6CT.
— ‘Beer serious’: Germans have a word for being serious about beer (no, it’s not ‘hipster’). NPR reports on this seriousness when it comes to a centuries-old beer purity law, which might be crippling Germany’s craft-beer industry. Read it: http://n.pr/1TiWcT8.
— History of the lobster: The Financial Times covers the history of the lobster: It was considered peasant food until the railway meant it could be transported inland. Read more: http://on.ft.com/1NfngWO.
ON THE AGENDA
Fertilizers Europe hosts a series of panel talks on “Opportunities in the EU Nutrient Legislation,” at Scotland House Conference Center in Brussels, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. More: http://bit.ly/1Nfpupb.
**A message from the European Crop Protection Association: A European Parliament report cites that up to 40% of global crop yields are lost to pests and diseases every year. These losses could double without pesticides. The report: European Union, European Parliament: Draft Report on Technological solutions to sustainable agriculture in the EU (2015/2225(INI)). Consider the facts. Join the debate #WithOrWithout #pesticides?**