FARM EUROPE’s POSITION ON IMPORTED DEFORESTATION

 

The European Parliament has approved a Resolution asking the Commission to propose binding measures against imported deforestation.

This is a landmark initiative that we warmly welcome. It comes after years of tergiversation and lack of any effective action to block imports into the EU market of products originating in recently deforested areas.

The EU has allowed growing imports of palm oil from regions where primary forest is being burnt, in particular in South-East Asia. The problem is also acute as regards imports of meat and soybeans from the Amazon basin, where it is well known that primary forest is being burnt for logging, meat production and soybean farming.

The public backlash has been raising, and the European Parliament has rightly taken the lead in the absence of decisive action from the Commission.

Farm Europe is no stranger to this debate. We have asked that imported deforestation be tackled forcefully. We have made concrete proposals.

The Commission has now the obligation to change gear and propose binding measures against imported deforestation.

The European Parliament proposes mandatory due diligence from all operators as the model to follow. We invite the Commission to build on this proposal and make it effective and water tight.

We are concerned that basing the whole system on due diligence might over rely on paper guarantees from operators, or certification organisations, in particular those in third countries where deforestation is taking place and controls are deficient.

The Commission should avoid to the largest possible extent the proliferation of loopholes.

An effective means of blocking imports from deforested areas is, as Farm Europe has proposed, to independently monitor the evolution of deforestation using remote sensing and accredited EU operators, and confront the information gathered with the declarations of the operators.

CAP Reform debate & vote: ready for trilogues

This week, the Agricultural Ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss and vote on the Council conclusions of the CAP post-2020 legislatives proposals, notably on the Strategic Plan regulation, the Horizontal regulation, and the Common Market Organization regulation.

At the same time, the European Parliament voted on the same files during the plenary session of October 20th, 21st, and 22nd. The architecture and the main lines of the CAP reform were defined, which intends to be implemented from 2023 onwards. These will be defended during the negotiations that are set to begin in November with the Council, in the presence of the Commission (trilogues).

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CAP: European Parliament votes in favour of a triple-performance agricultural policy

During the plenary session of October 20th, 21st, and 22nd, the European Parliament defined the architecture and the main lines of CAP reform it intends to see implemented from 2023 onwards and which it will defend during the negotiations that will begin in November with the Council, in the presence of the Commission (Trilogues). Voting on the other sessions will take place in the following days.

The European Parliament, as the bearer of a European and common ambition for the Common Agricultural Policy, has chosen, in all responsibility, to move away from the reform proposal presented in 2018 by the European Commission. Farm Europe, who warned since the Commission proposal about the risks of a renationalization, welcomes the fact that the European parliament has rectified the direction, by underlying the “C” in the CAP.

Faced with a proposal that would split the CAP into 27 national policies, with a higher risk of market distortions, by cutting the relationship between Europe and the final beneficiary of this policy and by placing on the Member States’ shoulders the essential responsibilities, the European Parliament voted by a very large majority (more than 2/3) in favour of:

  • a policy with common agricultural, environmental and social ambitions for all the territories of the European Union,
  • a policy to reconcile the economy and the environment, for European agriculture and for our rural areas,
  • a policy that is transparent in the management of European funds and capable of demonstrating its effectiveness and measuring the results it generates,
  • a policy that does not confuse necessary flexibility with renationalisation,
  • lastly, a policy endorsing the European social acquis.

Noting that sustainable economic development can only be achieved on the basis of true sustainability, just as effective environmental management and the fight against climate change require economically prosperous actors, the MEPs propose a rebalancing of the priorities and tools of both the 1st and 2nd pillars around a search for dual economic and environmental performance.

The work carried out by key MEPs from the main political groups, following on from the one already set in May 2019 by the rapporteurs of the previous legislature, has been remarkable, even if some issues, such as the common ambition of eco-schemes, are still under work. It brings meaning and realism to the first European policy to regain its raison d’être: a policy through which the European Union invests in its future through its agriculture and rural areas.

This is an essential first step in order to start negotiations in Trilogues, as soon as the Council of Agriculture Ministers, too, will be in a position to do so with a general approach bearing a European ambition and moving away from the initial reactions of seeking maximum flexibilities to the detriment of the common good that only a European dimension can ensure.

 

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Background

European Parliament’s position on the CAP adopted on October 20th, 2020

  • Bringing the 1st and 2nd pillars of the CAP into line with each other through a quest for double performance
  • The European Parliament confirms the principle of national strategic plans to be presented by each Member State. These plans, which must ultimately be approved by the Commission, will define the ways and means that each Member State will mobilize in order to meet the objectives defined by the CAP.
  • Within this framework, each of the two pillars should contribute to the ecological transition and the economic performance of European agriculture.
  • 1st PILLAR
  • Any beneficiary of CAP aid will have to respect common EU cross-compliance rules in addition to the current cross-compliance and greening rules. As such, 5% of arable land will have to be devoted to EFAs and crop rotation will have to be carried out. The definition of this rotation remains an open question, as does the coherence between the inclusion of leguminous in the EP’s position and the agronomic reality of these crops.
  • 60% of the funds of the 1st pillar of the CAP will have to be allocated, in each Member State, to the financing of basic income support, redistributive aid (with a minimum of 6%), coupled aid and operational programmes,
  • 30% of the 1st pillar will have to be allocated over the period to the new green measures of the 1st pillar (eco-schemes). These will have to meet ecological transition objectives while at the same time aiming to improve the economic situation of farms. The measures that will be defined by the Member States in this framework of eco-schemes will have to fit into proposed areas of action, among which carbon sequestration, reduction of the use of inputs, agro-ecology or precision agriculture have been retained by the EP. Delegated acts to be proposed by the Commission would specify the criteria to be met by measures to be eligible for the eco-scheme system,
  • Member States will be able to mobilize 10% of the first pillar for coupled aid (+ 2% for programmes in favor of plant protein production) and 3% for measures in operational programmes outside the traditional sectors (wine, fruit and vegetables, olives, etc.), MS would have as well the possibility to use unused coupled support to finance more operational programmes
  • The sectorial programmes for the wine, fruit and vegetables and olive sectors are kept, and wine planting authorizations are proposed to be extended to 2050,
  • The ceiling for direct aid is set at €100 000 per farm (excluding eco-scheme aid, young farmers aid and wage costs). If 12% of the first pillar is allocated to redistributive aid, a Member State may decide not to apply this ceiling,
  • Possible transfers from the 1st pillar to the 2nd pillar are limited to 12% of the 1st pillar and should be allocated to environmental actions in the 2nd A transfer from the 2nd to the 1st pillar would be possible for a maximum of 5% (limit raised to 15% for countries with national average direct aids below the European average),
  • 2nd PILLAR:
  • 35% of the funds of the 2nd pillar should be devoted to environmental measures (40% of the ICHN aid could be counted in this framework) and 30% of this same pillar would be dedicated to measures financing investments and risk management tools,
  • improvement of risk management tools that can be triggered from 20% of losses and benefit from 70% CAP co-financing,
  • reinstatement of the current minimum and maximum amounts of aid per hectare paid under the 2nd pillar of the CAP.
  • Reinforced crisis management: the voted position provides for a multiannual crisis reserve of at least 400 millions which can increase other the period to €1.5 billion to finance exceptional measures and to take over risk management tools, mutual funds and SRIs.
  • At the same time, within the market management tools (single CMO), the proposals defined in the 2019 spring are adopted, with a view to better organization of the sectors, a rebalancing of the weight of farmers within the food chain, market transparency, and, in times of crisis, the ability to rapidly implement incentive plans to reduce production.
  • A balance between the need for transparency in the use of public funds, simplification and measurement of the environmental and economic results achieved

The position adopted by the European Parliament departs from the Commission’s proposals regarding the way the CAP is managed in order to ensure the sound management of CAP funds and to seek simplification for farmers and Member States (where the Commission proposed a system that was simpler to manage for itself but more bureaucratic for farmers and payment agencies). The eligibility of final beneficiaries of CAP aid will have to continue to be checked, as well as compliance with the rules defined at EU level and in the national strategic plans for the different types of measures.

On the other hand, the Commission will have to rely on the work of the national   certification agencies and will have to limit strictly any double checks on farmers, unless the certification agencies show malfunctions.

Monitoring the effectiveness of the CAP is planned on the basis of a limited   number of indicators analysing every 2 years the results achieved in relation to the objectives validated in the framework of the national strategic plans. The proposals of the European commission on Annual Controls and Sanctions of the Member States on the basis of administrative performance indicators (number of hectares under the different CAP measures) are refuted, as is the idea of having as many control and sanction policies as there are Member States.

With this position, which is diametrically opposed to the idea of renationalisation of the CAP proposed by the Commission in 2018, the European Parliament (led by the S&D and EPP groups) strongly reaffirms by a large majority opposing the rapporteur in charge of the dossier – that the common European dimension of the CAP cannot be called into question. It firmly rejects any temptation to renationalise and ultimately dismantle the CAP and thus sends a strong signal to the Council and the Commission.

MEASURES & IMPACTS RELATED TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS: RECOVERY & RESILIENCE FOR THE SECTOR

France, Ireland, and Italy outlined the draft bill for the 2021 budget for agriculture.

At the European level, the Agri Committee voted the Recovery and Resilience plan for agriculture ahead of the discussion and vote in the plenary to be held in Strasbourg on October 20th. The bill passed in the Committee with 46 votes in favour, 2 abstentions, and no against.

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CAP reform negotiations: Progress on green architecture, direct payments, & new delivery model

September was marked as follows:

  • At the level of the European Parliament, De Castro (S&D), rapporteur on the file, presented to the ComAgri the first amended version concerning the recovery plan for agriculture. It could allow the sector to benefit from more than €10 billion, to be mobilised during 2021 and 2022.
  • At the Agri Council meeting, Ministers gathered to talk about green architecture, direct payments and the new delivery model. Ministers stressed the need for further discussions on the strategic plan’s approval process.

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MEASURES & IMPACTS RELATED TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS: the recovery package for the double-performance of agriculture

At European Parliament level, Paolo De Castro (S&D), rapporteur on the recovery plan dossier, proposed that at least 2/3 of the total recovery package should be devoted to investment in sustainable development and digitization.

At the meeting of the Council of agriculture ministers, Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski explained that despite the recession caused by the pandemic, the value of EU agri-food exports reached €75.8 billion in January-May 2020, an increase of 2% compared to the same period of the previous year.

 

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NEW BREEDING TECHNIQUES: new use for CRISPR/Cas9

This month hot topic on New Breeding Techniques focused mainly on a controversial new study published on “Food” describing an experiment which could lead to potentially “detect GMOs derived from genome-editing techniques”.

In Germany, CDU/CSU underlined its view that “it should not be regulated as genetically modified organisms “. In Germany as well, a new experimental use of CRISPR/Cas by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology succeeded to change genetic sequence within a chromosome. CRISPR/Cas9 has also been used by a joint US-UK research effort on pigs, goats, and cattle to create sperm with genetically enhanced traits for possible offspring.

full note available on FE Members’ area 

 

Agri-Fisherie Council: National Strategic Plan’s approval needs further discussions

Chaired by Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture of Germany, the Council’s meeting focused on discussions on the common agricultural policy reform package, in the view of adopting its general approach in October 2020. Ministers discussed three elements of the future CAP: green architecture, direct payments to farmers and the new delivery model. The discussion was based on a background paper prepared by the presidency (10729/20).

In the afternoon session, the European Commission presented the latest developments in trade related agricultural issues and Ministers exchanged views on current and upcoming free trade agreements negotiations.

During the meeting, 15 delegations stressed the need for a protein plan in European agriculture. The Spanish delegation called for maintaining the current level of budget for the programme dedicated to the outermost regions in the next MFF. Issues related to nutrition front of pack labelling were raised by the Czech and Italian delegations and supported by several others.

All the outcomes of this Council meeting here:

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/45656/st10944-en20.pdfe

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Mobilizing the European Agricultural Recovery Fund for an accelerated transition towards a double-performance European agriculture

Precision agriculture provides farmers and livestock farmers with solutions adapted to their context. Data from sensors, cameras, satellites and meteorological stations are processed by algorithms that use Decision Support Tools (DST) to provide advice on the most relevant actions that can be taken.

The use of these tools ensures better input efficiency at the farm level. The latter are adjusted to the quantified needs of crops and animals while ensuring optimal yields. They are crucial tools in the transition of European agriculture towards a dual-performance agriculture: more economical in terms of inputs, taking care of the environment, and more economically efficient.

Digital agriculture also has the potential to simplify the administrative burden, both in respect of the implementation and control of CAP measures, and in respect of the data entered by farmers.

While studies highlight the benefits of such tools, the transition from the “research” phase to the agricultural sphere is still slow. To date, digital agriculture remains poorly democratized.
In addition, there are other main obstacles: the cost of these technologies, the fear that such long- term investments could quickly become obsolete.

However, in view of their economic, social and environmental benefits, it would be urgent to extend within the European Union the use of precision farming tools in crop production and the use of sensors and robots in animal husbandry.

The European Union must be an actor in the democratization of these tools, making them accessible to all farmers and livestock breeders whatever the type and size of their farms, their farming practices and their backgrounds.

Mobilizing 60% of the recovery plan to support innovative precision investments in agriculture in 2021 and 2022 will allow a special plan of 10 billion investment for an accelerated transition of European agriculture towards double performance. The investments of this plan could be supported up to 53% (share EU recovery fund 90%, 10% counterpart Member State), mobilizing 4.8 billion of the 8 billion of the said recovery plan.

The additional 3 billion from this recovery fund should be allocated, in synergy, to actions for skills acquisition and promotion of European products.

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What are the incentives for an accelerated transition?

While €8 billion will be added to the financing of the second pillar of the CAP to relaunch the agricultural sectors, a relaunch to be carried out in coherence with the Green Deal objectives, these funds should be used in a targeted way, to really prepare the future and the rebound of the European agricultural sectors.

This implies giving priority to the funding of double performance transition investments, as well as measures to increase farmers’ competence in innovative techniques, to strengthen the structuring of the sectors and the promotion of European products.
The objective would therefore be to devote at least 5 billion euros of this allocation to support investment in precision agriculture in 2021 and 2022, in addition to the “investment” measures that will be implemented in the framework of the reformed CAP from 2023 (and those pursued during the transition period).

These 5 billion euros would constitute a decisive incentive for a special plan of 10 billion euros of investments in order to widely spread the use of DSTs on all European agricultural surfaces and to accelerate the accessibility of digital tools to livestock farms.
This change will lead to substantial savings in inputs, which will ensure greater sustainability and profitability of European production, an operational response:

– to citizens’ expectations regarding the environment, food quality …
– and to the imperatives of cost competitiveness, but also of promoting quality approaches.

These investments will have to be reasoned in different ways in order to be adapted to the diversity of farms. While farms above a certain size can make the investments alone, it will be appropriate to encourage collective investments in other cases, particularly in regions where farms may be smaller. Investments within the framework of cooperative, CUMA or of a third body, such as GAIA in Greece, should be used to their full potential as soon as they prove their effectiveness. The financing of coordination between producers, as well as technical support and equipment maintenance can and should be carried out by cooperatives. The traceability of the final products and the treatments provided to them should also be ensured by them.

 

Crop production:

Digital tools related to crop production can be classified into 5 levels according to their degree of precision, the equipment required and their cost. The use of precision farming tools (sensors, weather stations, satellite images, cameras, DSTs for input management) are present at each level. Weather stations require an investment of between €400 and €2,000 (Weenat, 2020). Some DSTs are free of charge. Those that prescribe the quantities of inputs to be applied from sensors and satellite images of crops have a maximum cost of €20/ha/year (Farm Europe, 2019).

– The first level, the most accessible, consists in using the information given by these tools to adjust the applications to the scale of a set of plots with the same pedoclimatic conditions and phytosanitary risks. The second level consists in adjusting the inputs at plot scale.

– From the third level onwards, in field crops, these tools are associated with modulation tools. These include precision sprayers, which are more expensive. The most accessible ones cost around €3,000. They are connected to a needs mapping service. Sprayers that modulate doses based on data from on-board cameras can cost more than €40,000. Modulating nitrogen doses ensures fertilizer savings of between 4 and 47% depending on production and environments. At the same time, it maintains or increases yield by up to 10%. The financing of such a sprayer can be done over 5 to 10 years. A saving of 11 to 90% is noted, depending on the case, concerning pesticides (herbicides, fungicides and insecticides). An increase in the gross margin from 7 to 38€/ha/year is possible.

Machine Guidance (MG) and Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) complete this level, raising the precision of the actions carried out. These technologies make it possible to avoid crossing trajectories during treatments and to gain in precision at the intra-plot scale. Their cost varies from around €1,300 if the tractor is already equipped with GPS. It can go up to €50,000 for those with the most options. MG saves 2% on seeds and fertilizers, 6.32 to 10% on fuel and 6.04% on labor. It increases the gross margin between €38 and €612/ha/year. CTF complements the MG with the analysis of itinerary data and treatments from previous years. It saves 3 to 15% in fertilizers, 25% in pesticides, 25 to 70% in fuel and 70% in labor. A 15% increase in yield has also been observed. Increases of 40 to 80% in nitrogen efficiency have been recorded, increasing the gross margin from 57 to 115€/ha/year (Balafoutis et al., 2017).

– Levels 4 and 5 add to the tools of the previous levels robotization as an alternative to pesticides for the management of bio-aggressors (weeds, diseases and pests) as well as precision irrigation. The aim of robotization is to ensure that no more fertilizer and pesticide residues are detectable. Input adjustment takes place at the plot level in level 4 and at the plant level in level 5. Weeding robots cost between €25,000 and €80,000. They allow a reduction in pesticide quantities of 20 times compared to standard protection. They also reduce fuel use and working time.

Precision irrigation allows the amount of water irrigated to be adjusted to crop needs, soil moisture and weather forecasts. The most advanced systems can automatically trigger irrigation if those parameters are below a certain threshold. Flow controllers for pivot irrigation systems are the most affordable starting at €1,300 and pivot control irrigation management systems can cost up to €35,000. Drip irrigation costs around €40/ha. Savings of up to 34% are observed depending on the irrigation system. Their effect on yield is more contrasted, ranging from a reduction of 18% to an increase of 31%. Thus, input efficiency ranges from -12% to 97% for pivot control systems. Water savings of about €30/ha/year have been observed in the UK (Balafoutis et al., 2017). It is around the Mediterranean area that precision irrigation has the greatest potential. Water and energy consumption are reduced by 10-14% on average (FIGARO Irrigation Platform, 2016). In Greece, the net benefit can be as much as €480/ha for a cotton crop (Balafoutis et al., 2017).

 

Livestock:

Precision livestock farming is based on the use of sensors and robots.
Sensors can be on the animals to monitor their health (metabolic disorders, infections, lameness, udders, heat, pregnancy and calving). GPS can be used to monitor the location of the animals. These checks can be carried out using collars that cost around €120 per unit, plus €4,000 for data storage and interpretation and €180 in annual costs. These on-board sensors can save up to €100 per cow, increase productivity by up to 30% and reduce working hours by up to one hour per day (IDELE, 2019; LITUUS, 2019). Feed storage and quality can also be assessed, as well as the composition of the milk. Milk analyses can be used to anticipate infections, heat… A farmer will detect 50 to 55% of heat, while an automated detector will detect 50 to 99%. The anticipation linked to these analyses allows a gain of around €2,000 (Huneau & Gohier, 2017).

Robotization makes it possible to simplify milking, cleaning of stables or straw and feed distribution (mixing, quantity of feed distributed, number and time of passage and scraping of refusals). A feeding robot, preparing the mixtures and distributing the rations costs around €230,000 for 150 dairy cows. This type of robot can be financed for 12 years and amortized in 15 years. The annual investment cost is between 25 and 44% greater than for a tractor and a mixing machine, with a saving of almost 50% in maintenance costs and charges, compared to the latter. Similarly, a reduction of 15 to 20% in the workforce is observed. In the end, some studies point to an annual saving of almost 60% compared to the use of a tractor and a mixing machine. Other studies estimate an increase in production costs of €6,097/year but a saving of 400 hours of work (Autellet, 2019).

A milking robot costs around €120,000 for 80 cows. Although they reduce working time, milking robots increase the consumption of concentrate, and thus the costs of feeding. An increase in the number of somatic cells, reducing the quality of the milk can happen. Combined with the cost of the investment and the installation of the robots, this reduces the final remuneration for 1,000 liters from 70€ to 48€. This loss is compensated by an average increase of 11% in the volume of milk per cow per year (Autellet, 2019; Cogedis, 2019).

Skills acquisition:

Whatever the tool and its cost, training is necessary. Their costs vary between €420 and €1,400 (Idele, 2020).

References:

Autellet, R. (2019). Robotisation en élevage : état des lieux et évolution. Académie de l’Agriculture de France.

Balafoutis, A., Beck, B., Fountas, S., Vangeyte, J., & Wal, T. van der. (2017). Precision Agriculture Technologies Positively Contributing to GHG Emissions Mitigation, Farm Productivity and Economics. Sustainability, 9(1339), 28.

Cogedis. (2019). Le passage en traite robotisée s’accompagne d’une augmentation de la productivité. Plein Champ.

Farm Europe. (2019). Etude des performances économiques et environnementales de l’agriculture digitale.

FIGARO Irrigation Platform. (2016). FIGARO’s Precision Irrigation Platform Presents Major Water and Energy Savings. http://www.figaro-irrigation.net/outputs/the-figaro- platform/en/

Huneau, T., & Gohier, C. (2017). Agriculture de précision robotique et données. In Fermes numériques (Vol. 1, Issue). https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

Idele. (2020). Idele formation.
IDELE. (2019). Inventaire et tests de capteurs.

http://idele.fr/no_cache/recherche/publication/idelesolr/recommends/inventaire-et-

tests-de-capteurs.html
LITUUS. (2019). Monitoring des bovin au service de la performance.
Soto, I., Barnes, A., Balafoutis, A., Beck, B., Sánchez, B., Vangeyte, J., Fountas, S., Van der

Wal, T., Eory, V., & Gómez-Barbero, M. (2019). The contribution of precision agriculture technologies to farm productivity and the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. https://doi.org/10.2760/016263

Weenat. (2020). Communication personnelle.

Measures & impacts related to the Covid-19 crisis: recovery fund expected from Jan 2021

Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski announced at the informal Council meeting in Koblenz that he is in charge of drawing up a plan to ensure food security in case of future crises. Furthermore, opening up to pressure from MEPs, the Commissioner expressed his willingness to make the €8 current billion (7.5 billion constant euros) recovery funds decided for the sector available from January 2021.

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