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DAFC political priorities during Dutch Presidency, spring 2016

The Danish Agriculture and Food Council (DAFC) in Brussels lists five top priorities during the Dutch Presidency.

Fair effort sharing, flexibility and Bio-economy in the 2030 climate and energy package
Followingf the historic climate agreement in Paris, the Commission is set to propose a new climate and energy package early summer. The Paris agreement commits 195 countries and the EU to keeping the increase in the global average temperature below 2° C “in a manner that does not threaten food production” (art. 2). The DAFC is engaged in a dialogue with the Commission with a view to furthering the need for a sustainable intensification of European agricultural production. Agriculture ought not to be caught between the negative impacts of climate change, which it is estimated will reduce the global production of maize and soya by 17% for each degree of temperature increase, and the risk of an unbalanced climate policy.

There is a need for a fairer effort sharing model among EU member states regarding non-ETS (Emission Trading System) reduction targets and more flexibility between non-ETS and ETS sectors in achieving overall climate objectives. A report from the Commission’s Joint Research Centre has concluded that lack of such fairness and flexibility threatens to cause a major fall in Danish agricultural production (an estimated 50% for beef, 25% for dairy products, and 14% for pork). This scenario is unacceptable - socially, financially and environmentally – since Danish agricultural products are amongst the most climate friendly in the world per unit of produce.

The DAFC urges MEPs to actively engage in the 2030 debate , in particular as regards the issue about ESD (effort-sharing decision), but also the elements concerning LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry) as well as renewable energy. Concerning the latter, it is important that the Bio-economy is recognized as part of the solution to climate change challenges, and that the EU sticks to 2030 targets for the use of bio-combustibles.

Simplification of the CAP with a focus on climate change and the environment
According to Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, a minor revision of the CAP will be introduced, focusing on simplification and better opportunities for the agricultural sector to help mitigate climate change. The DAFC welcomes this. There is a need to adjust policy focus to promote sustainable and intensive agricultural production systems within the EU. At the moment nitrogen-fixing crops are favoured over catch crops when calculating the impact on EFAs (ecological focus areas). This has negative implications for both climate and business, since the use of catch crops is an efficient way to store nitrogen and CO2. The Commissioner’s initiative, which the European Parliament is set to scrutinize through the delegated acts procedure, is an opportunity to treat catch crops and nitrogen-fixing crops equally and apply the a similar conversion factor of 0.7 for both types of crops when calculating EFAs.

Trialogue meetings on the NEC-directive and the regulation on organic farming
There is much at stake for Danish agriculture in the negotiations on the NEC-directive. In December 2015, Denmark voted no to the Council’s joint decision on the NEC-directive, which the DAFC supported, as it had not been possible to change the unfair reduction targets for ammonia in 2020. The Danish target still stands at 24% - four times the EU average. The final negotiations are expected to focus on the 2030 targets for ammonia – as far as Denmark is concerned, these targets deviate by 8 percentage points between the positions of the Council (24%) and the Parliament (32%), with a a considerable impact on possible growth scenarios for sustainable intensive production.

On the organic file, a number of outstanding issues persist, in particular the Parliament’s proposal to limit the size of organic pig and poultry production units, despite their fulfilment of organic production principles and conditions. The DAFC finds this element inappropriate and highly discriminatory towards organic farmers and their possibilities to adjust production to consumer demand. Moreover, it is important to avoid restrictions on existing organic methods of cultivation, e.g. tomatoes in demarcated beds, which is a long-standing tradition in Denmark.

Market potential in free trade with Japan and implementation of existing FTAs
The DAFC supports the Commission’s involvement in bilateral free trade negotiations. Such agreements should be aimed specifically at securing market access for the European food cluster and at promoting EU standards for international trade policy. In particular, this is relevant in the free trade talks with the USA. And an ambitious free trade agreement with Japan, including market access for agriculture and food products, will provide great socio-economic opportunities. Moreover, the Commission should be actively involved in the practical implementation of existing free trade agreements so that the necessary export certificates can be issued. EU representations in third countries ought to be upgraded to handle trade policy matters and support European businesses in their efforts to gain market access.

Agriculture and Europe’s circular economy
The Circular Economy Strategy provides a number of interesting perspectives. Transition from a linear economy to a circular economy presents many challenges and requires collaboration across sectors to find joint solutions for food products and value chains. The Danish agriculture and food production cluster is well placed to contribute to the development of circular business models. However, the complex and intensive regulation of food industries constitutes a barrier – one example being the EU animal by-product regulation, which plays a key role in identifying regulative barriers to the circular economy. Unfortunately, the Commission’s action plan does not mention the animal by-product regulation, which is one example of imbalance in the strategy’s current focus: while it addresses technical cycles in detail, its focus on biological cycles is insufficient.

However, it is positive that the strategy refers to the Commission’s Bio-economy strategy and that it also contains a positive mentioning of fertilizers and the great potential of increasing the use of organic waste as crop nutrients. The proposed waste framework directive ought to include specific targets for separation and reuse of organic waste.

Concerning “water reuse”, the DAFC would like to focus on the reuse of water in the food industry. The food sector has already delivered good results on water reuse and water saving in food production, for example through projects on water efficiency in dairies and a major innovation project on water efficiency – DRIP (Danish Partnership for Resource and Water Efficient Food Production).

More information
In addition to the above five top priorities, the DAFC is following a number of issues, including Huitema’s own-initiative report on innovative agricultural research, the Dalton report on the internal market, the debate on the MFF Mid-term Review and the Dutch Presidency’s focus on initiatives to avoid antibiotic resistance. In particular, we welcome the latter; in Denmark, the use of antibiotics is one of the lowest in the EU.     

Landbrug & Fødevarer Bruxelles

Annette Toft

Tobias Gräs