Global Food Forum: 5 orientations for a successful transition of EU agri-food systems

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The 3rd Edition of the Global Food Forum took place on the 17th and 18thof September in Pavia (Italy), gathering more than 200 political, economic and institutional decision-leaders as well as representatives of the civil society and academics. The event was an opportunity to draw orientations for the future of EU policies with having an impact on EU agri-food systems including the Common Agricultural Policy. A full report of this participatory process will be presented later this year to EU leaders around five key orientations.
Important decisions on the future of the EU agri-food policies are being made while the European Union is in a redefinition process, generating an unprecedented level of uncertainty. The Brexit represents a major threat for the EU agricultural sector. The Forum calls EU leaders to spare no efforts in order to reach the best possible agreement limiting trade disturbance, including via an extension of the transition period as long as necessary. In the meantime, Europe needs to review its capacity to manage its own contradictions within the agricultural sector between sectors facing decreasing consumption on internal markets – in need of global perspectives – and those sectors that cannot face more competition from the global markets, – in need of protection – in particular the beef and milk sector in less competitive areas. In any case, the EU must mobilize the CAP in order to better support farmers.
A secured budget is needed at EU level in order to reach EU objectives when it comes to sustainable and resilient EU food systems. For the next Multi-annual Financial Framework and the accompanying policies such as the CAP, quality should be prioritized more than the timing. The CAP should not be reformed because of budgetary constraints or only for a « national return rate » approach, but rather taking into account more ambition for the EU’s agri-food systems. Meanwhile, the future CAP should stay common and not be re-nationalized, nor should the powers of the co-legislators be voided by a power grab from the Commission.The 2019 spring elections are an important milestone for a democratic debate on future EU policies, including the CAP.
Direct payments are important to support farmers’ income. Nevertheless, there is a wide consensus : they cannot anymore be the only way to support farmers in a highly volatile world. The current crisis reserve included in the CAP has shown its limits both in its financing mode and its triggering capacity. The EU must take the opportunity of the next reform of the CAP to design a new global approach of the toolbox to better protect its farmers. For this toolbox, all the levers should be taken into account, including investments, innovation and education as well as the new eco-schemes tabled by the European Commission that must be mobilized to tackle both economic and environmental challenges altogether. Producers and branches should be encouraged to build tools such as mutual funds and insurances to cope with medium level of volatility or climate risks. It is also necessary to reform the crisis reserve to make it more efficient and effective in cases of deep crisis with a clear capacity for the EU to take its responsibility in a case of major market or climate disturbance. This crisis reserve should be flexible and reactive in order to take the lead when risk management tools are overwhelmed. This reserve should be sheltered from the specific interests of one or another MS: it should be driven in a truly European spirit with adequate funding.
The EU needs to reinvest in sectorial approaches – at EU level. It went too far in the « one-size fits all approach ». The diversity of agricultural sectors should not only be left to the Member States but also be reflected at EU level via specific tools, including when it comes to environmental requirements. A clear baseline of environmental rules must be defined at EU level together with a common set of economic levers. The EU framework should include clear orientations for the main financial levers (a minimum level of DP) and non-budgetary measures (for example protein strategy, biogas, etc.), Strong investment strategies should be set up at national or regional level in order to boost innovation. Rural Development should not be undermined to keep the capacity at national or regional level to accompany structural changes.
The Food Chain should not be a battlefield and the Commission’s proposal on Unfair Trade Practices (UTPs) is widely welcomed. Nevertheless, the initial proposal must be improved. A clear definition of the principles of UTPs should be set up at EU level in order to go beyond the need of a long list of practices, which could be bypassed.A broader approach should be promoted in the EU legislation integrating new actors with considerable market-power such as e-commerce. When it comes to the infringement procedure, a clear common approach should be designed at EU level.
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