School schemes : time to strengthen educational measures

The school schemes for food procurement are a European initiative whose aim is to improve the quality and the variety of nutritional intake for children in school age. They represent one branch of the preventive arm of the more general approach of the EU in its health policies by educating the next generation to healthy and balanced diets, the care of the self, and to the cultural value of food. Or, at least, they could.

Today the the COMAGRI Committee voted on the INI report on the European Milk and School Fruit and Vegetables Programmes.

Farm Europe welcomes the position taken by COMAGRI to focus on the issues of increasing awareness and education, making the scheme available to more children, addressing the issue of allergies, and maintaining support for traditional foods, including milk and dairy products, rather than imitations.

As analysed by Farm Europe, in order to improve the implementation and efficacy of the programs, the following actions should be taken :

  • Improve inclusiveness: the programs can only be effective if they reach out to a maximum of children enrolled in schools. At the end of the day, the aim of the programs in this sense should be to include 100% of children who attend school for educational course and for the additional activities (cooking classes, farm visits, food tasting, etc.). Furthermore, free procurement of F&V, milk and dairy to children coming from weak socio-economic situation (two firsts’ quintiles) should be considered, as the current schemes allow MS to decide whether families should partly compensate for the costs.
  • A truly effective coordination amongst the actors involved in the programs (schools, families, State, producers and other actors of the food supply chain) shall be implemented to effectively assure coherence and facilitate exchanges within the organisation of both the procurement and the educational measures.
  • Even the financing amongst states: funds should be re-calibrated based on the actual nutritional needs of pupils in member states, considering as well the socio-economic background and focus their action where most needed.
  • Give more importance to educational -accompanying- measures: it is indeed necessary to dedicate more efforts to the educational measures, within the framework of informing pupils about diets and lifestyle that should be balanced, and include the balanced use of different raw, or minimally processed, ingredients during cooking. This approach, with increased educational training, might also target and reduce the plague of food waste in school canteens, which is estimated to be around 19,3Kg per student per school year.
  • Consider holistic approach:
    • To focus on all children at school, from elementary schools (and pre-schools) to 15 years old.
    • To include in the financing of the program activities that cover cooking classes, multidisciplinary courses on nutrition (link to biology, seasonality, philosophy, medicine, art, etc.).
    • To give more concrete support to the actors ‘on the field’, responsible for the actual implementation of these programs (teachers, canteen personnel, chefs, dieticians, etc.).
    • To accompany communication campaigns all along the school year, nudging students towards reconfirmation and strengthening of the messages learnt during class hours.
    • To ban ultra-processed foods and competitive food from school environments and to focus on natural and traditionnal foods, including in order to answer adequately to the problem of allergens and to refuse any attempt to include imitation or synthetic food.
  • To incentive the development of tasty foods offered in canteens: the nutritionally balanced meal should be kept as the priority of public procurement, but taste and pleasure are just as fundamental parts of eating as food.
  • To reduce national administration burdens for educational institutes, providers of food, local administrations, notably by strengthening their digitalisation.
  •  To cover the totality of local ingredients and products during cooking classes, tasting activities, canteen menus.
  • To provide a mechanism that allows schools to receive fruit and vegetables from local farmers (and, in general, local supply chain) in the closest proximity. Moreover, it is necessary to develop a close relationship between local farmers, who represent an important resource also in terms of knowledge for the area, and the children, who are the citizens of the future, together with actors of local food supply chains.

Lastly, the issue of funding will have to be tackled if the aim is to have efficient procurement programmes delivering truly. EU financing support should be defined as to be a true lever of mobilisation of national support (public and/or private) to reach an overall budget of € 2.7 billions per year benefiting all the 67 million of European children.


The CJEU’s decision on excluding specific in-vitro from the OGM regulation sparked contrasting reactions from multiple associations. The eight-year-long debate’s verdict comes as the EC works to define specific rules on NGTs, fueling the debate amongst NGOs.

Outside the UE, the US are expecting higher investments on the NTGs studies to boost up their competitivity, while Asia, Africa, and Latin America are starting to authorize the commercialization of GM products.

Full note available at Farm Europe’s Members site


In February, France has made some long-awaited announcements featuring an approval of 160 million € for a cyclical distillation of wines, and other support measures for the sector. In the meantime, Italy’s wine exports are still dominating and Spain has had its Barcelona Wine Week with Minister Luis Planas. Finally, the WTO has received the Irish labeling draft initiative, which several Member States are unsatisfied with and believe will cause ruptures in the EU’s single market.

Full note available at Farm Europe’s Members site

EU-New Zealand trade agreement : contradictory impact assessments  

Ahead of the negotiation in 2020, the European Commission (DG Trade) published a “Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment in support of FTA negotiations between the European Union and New Zealand – Final Report”, with a focus on agriculture which is worth recalling and re-assessing as the trade agenda move up on the priorities. 

The Report analyses two scenarios, one called conservative where agriculture tariffs are left untouched, and the other called ambitious where also agriculture trade is liberalized. We have focused on the latter, as the conservative scenario was not pursued in the negotiations. We will qualify the results however, as some sectors will still be subject to TRQs instead of full liberalization.

As background data, the Report recalls that “Trade in agricultural products is important in the EU-NZ trading relationship. Agricultural products comprised 10.8 percent of the EU’s total exports to New Zealand in 2018 (€ 616 million) and 70.0 percent of the EU’s total imports from New Zealand (€ 2.43 billion). The EU in particular imported meat, edible fruits, beverages, spirits and vinegar from New Zealand in 2018. The EU’s large trade deficit with New Zealand in agricultural products comes despite the relatively high EU import tariffs in this sector.”

With regard to the assessment of the overall impact of the FTA, the Report notes that “Ecorys (2009) conducted a study on the impact of FTAs in the OECD, specifically focusing on an EU-NZ and EU-AUS FTA, an EU-US FTA, and an EU-Japan FTA. The results of a possible EU-NZ FTA showed that it would entail an estimated increase of 4.3 percent in exports for New Zealand and an increase of 0.2 percent in exports for the EU.” Or to put it bluntly, NZ would capture all the gains of the FTA.

However the DG Trade IA finds that EU exports would grow 32% versus 28.5% for NZ exports, totally reversing the findings of Ecorys for the OECD. We find it quite surprising, as NZ tariffs are already amongst the lowest in the world and as NZ has so many FTAs around the globe. EU exports already face low tariff barriers, and will face stiff competition from other exporters already present in the NZ market. 

Turning to agriculture, in the ambitious scenario the largest gains for New Zealand’s exports to the EU are seen in agriculture (dairy  €466 million, beef and sheep meat €356 million, vegetables, fruits & nuts and other food).

EU exports gains to NZ are minor: other food €33 million, dairy €27 million, other meat €20 million.

As a result of the FTA, the EU experiences production declines in beef and sheep meat (-1.4 %) and fruits and vegetables (-0.2 %).

The Report also examines in more detail the consequences in two sectors – ruminant meat and dairy.

Ruminant meat sector

As background the Report notes that “In 2017, the average applied tariff on ruminant meat in the EU for imports from New Zealand was 39.3 percent, compared to 24.5 percent for imports from the rest of the world. In contrast, New Zealand has an applied tariff rate of only 0.3 percent on ruminant meat imports from the EU.”

New Zealand enjoys “comparatively favorable conditions of access to the EU market” for sheep meat, thanks mainly to a zero duty country-specific quota (TRQ) of 228,254 tonnes carcass weight equivalent (c.w.e.) of sheep meat (and goat meat). For beef, according to the WTO tariff data base, EU TRQs for which New Zealand is eligible are open to all other WTO Members, namely a frozen beef quota of 53,000 tonnes with an in-quota tariff rate of 20 percent, and a processing beef quota of 63,703 tons with an in-quota rate of between 20 percent and 20 percent plus €994.5/ton – €2,138.4/ton, depending on the product. These quotas “tend to be dominated by lower cost suppliers (for example from South America)”. Another quota for hormone free and “grain-fed high-quality beef” (HQB), established as a “collateral” result of the WTO dispute on beef hormones, is also accessible to the US, Canada, Australia, Uruguay and Argentina. Within this HQB quota, New Zealand can supply a country-specific quota of 1,300 tonnes p.w. New Zealand (and Australia) supply 94 percent of the EU’s sheep meat and goat meat imports, mostly through their preferential TRQs.”

For the EU, total output of ruminant meat is estimated to decline by 1.4 % under the ambitious liberalisation scenario, compared to a no change scenario. In contrast, for New Zealand, the corresponding estimated percentage change in total output of ruminant meat is positive 4.1 %.

The real impact might however be lower as full liberalization will not be achieved, and new TRQs will instead apply.


As background the Report notes that “In 2017, the average applied tariff rate on dairy products in the EU on New Zealand’s exports was 54.6 percent. This is higher than the 41.5 percent the EU levies on imports from the rest of the world. In contrast, New Zealand has an applied tariff rate of 2 percent on dairy imports from the EU. Tariffs between 3 percent and 5 percent are applied on milk and cream and several processed milk products such as yoghurt, buttermilk, but also whey and milk powder products. A 7.7 percent tariff is applied on a range of cheese products, while other processed milk products imports face ad valorem zero tariffs.”

“As concerns EU tariffs and quotas, New Zealand benefits from a large number of Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs), which the EU opens for all supplier countries (“erga omnes”) or to New Zealand only (either “traditional suppliers” or “new suppliers”). Preferential import quota allocations for the year 2017 are for eight TRQs erga omnes, totaling 83,241 tons, while four large TRQs are reserved for New Zealand (for cheeses and butter), totaling 85,693 tons.”

For the EU, total output of dairy is estimated to fall by 0.1 %. For New Zealand, in contrast, the estimated percentage change in total dairy output is +0.5 %.

The Report adds that “It goes without saying that an even bigger trade gain would result under an ambitious scenario whereby the EU would return to a single tariff border protection by abolishing the TRQ for countries like New Zealand.”

As possible remedies to the negative impacts of the FTA in these sectors the Report offers: “… there would be a need to monitor situation in certain Member States or regions which, due to a higher share of non-dairying cattle farming in economic activity and employment (e.g. in Ireland), may potentially be more affected (in particular if effects of more new FTAs cumulate).”

These conclusions do not offer adequate visibility and do not match the strategic dimension of the agricultural sector. At a time where securing food sovereignty is high on the European agenda, such a move forward in the trade agenda and treatment of the agricultural sector will not be understood by the EU agriculture community, and rightly so.

The  Green Deal Industrial Plan : agriculture must be prioritised via a truly EU wide scheme

The European Commission presented a Communication on “A Green Deal Industrial Plan for the Net-Zero Age”. It also announced that a proposal for a European Sovereignty Fund (ESF) will be made in the context of the review of the Multi-annual financial framework before summer 2023. The Plan and the ESF are meant to be the EU’s response to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) triggered by the United States, which heavily subsidizes actions against climate change, but also to try coordinating further the European approach after a super-intensive year of state aids in a few Member States, France, and Germany in particular.

The Communication defends furthering support through state aid to all renewable technologies and supporting “innovative advanced biofuels plants”. However, the Communication is mute on supporting the transition towards greener agriculture, contrary to what the US has done in the IRA. Contrary to the US, the Commission ignores an economic sector that is key to achieving a net-zero economy in the EU.

Transition to a greener agriculture

To give the scale of the challenge, having a look at the US approach is needed while at the same time keeping in mind that inflation will seriously undermine the leverage capacity of the Common Agriculture Policy in Europe. Overall, about 85 billion EUR will be missing to keep its economic firepower over the 2021-2027 period in comparison with 2020, which simply means fewer investments, and less capacity to prepare for the future.

On the US side, on top of the usual farm support schemes, approximately $20 billion of IRA funds will support USDA’s conservation. This additional investment will help farmers implement expanded conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the storage of carbon in their soil and trees. It brings financial assistance or technical assistance to make the transition.

At a time when the EU’s agriculture already has a serious investment lag vis-à-vis the US on new technologies and processes that reduce emissions and the use of inputs, this further investment package will widen the sustainability and competitiveness gap. The Commission proposals under the Green Deal aim at very ambitious targets for the reduction of input use, and the agriculture sector is also tasked to reduce emissions and increase the capture of carbon. But at this stage, this approach is not accompanied by any significant investment scheme.

That lag will get wider with the IRA, creating a growing unbalance between agriculture on both sides of the Atlantic, and undermining the leadership of the EU when it comes to green and competitive farming technologies. Without any further actions, climate and environmental targets will be compromised, and the competitiveness of the EU’s agriculture would suffer as well. Other than climate change and the environment, the EU’s food security and food sovereignty would be challenged as the energy price gap will continue eroding EU competitiveness.

Transition to green energy

The IRA also provides a $14 billion investment in helping farms and rural electric co-ops transition to clean energy. On top of the current incentives and mandates, the IRA invests an additional $500 million to expand biofuel infrastructure, and broaden the availability of renewable fuels like E15, E85, and B20. In addition to that it extends tax credits for biodiesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

EU green industries, such as producing sustainable biofuels, already face severe headwinds when competing with the US and other key producers, in particular, due to much higher energy costs. EU production of biofuels is by far the main contributor to decarbonizing the transport sector. The higher GHG reduction targets proposed by the Commission, under discussion by the co-legislators, will contribute to all sustainable biofuels a fundamental building block to achieve those goals.

If the current competitive disadvantages persist, on top of the new US IRA subsidies, it will be inevitable that well-needed new investments will cross the Atlantic, and existing EU operations will struggle to survive. EU biofuel demand for transport decarbonization would be provided for by imports from the US, and other main producers, to the detriment of EU-based industries.

The Green Deal Industrial Plan and the ESF should aim at putting EU sectors that are key to fighting climate change, like sustainable biofuel production without exception, on an equal footing with the US. Failure to do so would kill new investments in the EU, and compromise the EU’s ambitious targets for GHG reductions, carbon capture, and environmental protection.

At least €40 billion EU fund needed for investments in agri-food systems 

The Green Deal Industrial Plan and the ESF must foresee an additional package dedicated to supporting investments in agriculture in new technologies and processes that reduce emissions and input use. They must also create the right incentives to increase carbon capture, alongside carbon savings, and to produce clean energy. Overall, a surge in the investment capacity of the CAP will be needed not later than during the 2023-2025 period for Europe to stay in the game, on course to achieve its green ambition, secure a dynamic agri-food sector in Europe, and avoid an investment drain for the green economy on the other side of the Atlantic.

At least 40 billion EUR must be mobilized at the EU level, rather than only via State Aids that are certainly needed, but that risk generating a multi-speed Europe undermining the internal market. This fund must be complemented by a stable and pragmatic regulatory framework providing visibility to economic actors at a time when a major demographic challenge is looming in the farm sector and when economic actors need clear signals.


December confirmed a record export for Italian wine, an extended freeze on alcohol duties in the UK and state aid for Cypriot wine producers. Meanwhile, the Commission reports in its forward-looking analyses that wine production is “likely to be challenged and changed in the future”. For 2022/23, all analysts predict a vintage of very good quality.

Whereas, in (dry) January, Ireland has sparkled the conflict on wine labeling once again with its plan to display “alcohol-related dangers” on its alcoholic beverages, facing a strong resistance by other Member States and industrial organizations. In the meantime the Commission has confirmed that it has been working on labeling on its own, while the new crop insurance has taken effect in France for the vines.

Full note available at Farm Europe’s Members site

NUTRITION & HEALTH : Imitation meat debuts in the USA

In November, the US Food & Drugs Administration, the public office responsible for food safety, approved the first step that opens the door to commercialization to an imitation of ‘chicken’ produced in the lab by UPSIDE Food. At the same time, ingredient-provider start up is proposing to replace bees with bioreactors and precision-fermentation to supply the honey of the future. A study that was published analyzing the change in diets (based on fewer animal-based products) confirms that it could lead to a resurge of iodine deficiency disorders, with potential long-lasting impact on brain development.  

More delays expected for the front-of-pack nutritional labelling dossier: in fact, even if the Commission was expected to start discussing draft legislation under the Czech Presidency of the Council, during several public events, it announced that the dossier still needs further analysis, and an impact assessment is undergoing. Probably, it will be the Swedish Presidency that will have to handle this file … if the Commission proposed a draft in the next six months. 

New literature finds that industrial products that aim to imitate meat contain ‘anti-nutrients’, that do not allow the body to correctly absorb specific nutrients such as iron and zinc.  

full note available on FE Members’ area

FARM TO FORK STRATEGY: Member States call for a new revision of SUR

November was marked by the Commission communication on fertilizers whose aim is to face the consequences of the skyrocketing prices for this agricultural input for farmers. 

On the legislative dossiers, the revision of the sustainable use of pesticides has also been affected by the current crisis and the consequences of the Russian aggression to Ukraine, having an important group of member States calling for the Commission to reconsider its proposal and demanding a new Impact Assessment that considers the new situation. Mid-December, the Council adopted a formal decision asking the Commission to improve its impact assessment within a maximum period of 6 months. 

The Commission also advanced ideas on the Carbon certification dossier, specifying that this certification will be granted to farms that put into practice activities that have neutral or positive impact on the environment, create a net gain in CO2 presence in the atmosphere, are additional, aim to be long-term, and are monitored.  

Over the month of December, animal welfare standards have been discussed at the EU level. The EU ministers informally find an agreement on the fact that if higher standards will be applied to animals raised in the EU, so will the ones be coming from third countries (‘mirror clauses’). To set the basis for the revision of the EU legislation on the matter, the Commission presented an evaluation of the current law, concluding that the current set-up does not allow to meet current and future needs.  

December also marked a provisional institutional agreement over deforestation law. Once adopted and applied, the new law will ensure that a set of key goods placed on the EU market will no longer contribute to deforestation and forest degradation.

full note available on FE Members’ area

NEW GENOMIC TECHNIQUES: UK as a frontrunner for new legislation

While at the European Parliament the political group of the Greens hosted the ‘GM-free Europe’ event where policy makers and stakeholders from national and NGO organisations expressed worries around the possibility to a deregulation of ‘new GMOs’, the Commissioner for Health replied to the chair of the AGRI Committee saying that new technologies could be a way to help the implementation of the Farm to Fork objectives on pesticide reduction.  Meanwhile, Presidents of several agricultural value chain organisation addressed a letter to the European Executives on the matter of NGTs, arguing for a timely adoption of the revision proposal and defending the positive aspects that these techniques will have for sustainability standards.   

In the UK, concrete steps have been made towards the approval of a new legislation.

full note available on FE Members’ area

LIVESTOCK IN THE EU – Close to a proposal for origin label

Key issues affecting the EU livestock sectors: 

Avian flu cases are soaring across Europe. More than 48 million birds have died in the past year in the UK and the EU. EU farmers may no longer have to remove the free-range label from their eggs in the event of an extended mandatory housing order. 

Impact of the opening of the EU market to Ukrainian poultry production. The lifting of tariffs and the suspension of quotas on Ukrainian agricultural products, including Ukrainian poultry for a year, has led to a surge in Ukrainian poultry imports into the EU. The European Commission has said it could re-impose duties if EU producers face serious difficulties. 

A German parliamentary group has called for the animal welfare label to be applied to products from other EU Member States and third countries. 

The Commission may present a proposal for EU-wide origin labelling early next year.

In Germany, piggeries should be converted to improve animal welfare.  This could result in a reduction of the pig population.

Germany tightens animal transport rules and calls for EU-wide monitoring. Germany will also tighten rules on antibiotics for livestock. 

According to the European Food Safety Authorityanimal transport times should be shortened to reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant germs. 

The European Commission published in November a Communication on “Ensuring the availability and affordability of fertilisers”. The text sets out long-term objectives for Europe and the rest of the world. 

MEPs call for initiative on mental health in agriculture 

Members of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee have called for concerted efforts to support the mental health of EU farmers as pressures mount on the already strained sector. 

The European Parliament has called for a downgrading of the protection status of wolves in the EU to help protect the livestock sector. 

This resolution could put political pressure on the European Commission to re-evaluate its approach to the management of wolf populations.

full note available on FE Members’ area