March 4. 2024. 5:43

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Agrifood Brief: Met-solomon’s dilemma


Solomon’s dilemma is a phrase used to describe a seemingly impossible decision that must be made between competing alternatives, like choosing between your favourite children – or, say, your favourite European Parliament committee.

The phrase comes from the biblical figure of King Solomon, who, when faced with two women both claiming to be the mother of a baby, proposed cutting the child in half.

Horrified, the real mother immediately withdrew her claim and begged for the child not to be harmed – and thus, the wise king determined the true parentage of the child.

Similarly, this week, the two chairs of the European Parliament’s agriculture and environment committees have turned to their wise king – Parliament President Roberta Met-solomon – to put a dispute to rest over a young proposal, the sustainable use of pesticides regulation (SUR).

The contentious but ambitious proposal aims to slash the use and risk of pesticides in half by 2030, as set out in the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy.

Tempers flared over the SUR this week after both of the committee chairs sent, in true British fashion, two separate, strongly-worded letters, seen by EURACTIV, to Metsola to air their grievances over their counterpart’s behaviour.

The first was sent by environment committee chair Pascal Canfin on 13 February to justify his refusal of a request from the agriculture committee to hold a public hearing on crop productivity and plant protection products, pencilled for 27 February.

The joint hearing between the two committees, which are forced to work together on parts of the contentious file, was proposed to “fill some gaps in the impact assessment supporting that proposal”.

But, pulling the old ‘my committee is bigger than yours’ card, Canfin firmly put the idea to bed.

“ENVI is the committee responsible for the Commission proposal for the SUR,” he wrote, stating that the topics to be addressed by the requested AGRI hearing “do not fall under the elements for which AGRI has been attributed shared or exclusive competences”.

He also took the opportunity to throw some shade, pointing out that, despite the fact the shared competences were sorted out months ago, no joint timetable for this legislative procedure has been established between the two committees, despite “numerous contacts” between the rapporteurs and the secretariats.

For Canfin, it is the “intention of the AGRI committee to put on hold the parliamentary work on the proposal”, warning that this would “put at risk the conclusion of this important legislative procedure under the current term and does not reflect the principle of good cooperation among parliamentary committees”.

Likewise, a top EU official told EURACTIV this week he was “not optimistic” about the progression of the proposal as the agriculture committee is dragging its feet over the proposal.

“The AGRI Committee is not moving – they are deliberately and knowingly using the tactics to delay the file,” the official said, adding that they are “creat[ing] a pressure for this to be either watered down or not adopted within this mandate, or spilled over to the next mandate”.

But the drama doesn’t stop here, because the very next day, the agriculture chair penned a letter of his own, proving there was no love lost between the two committees, even on the most romantic day of the year.

In it, Norbert Lins took the opportunity to “underline and deplore” the uncertainty in which the environment committee keeps their agriculture counterparts regarding its intentions and the next steps.

He pointed out that, at this stage, the discussions between the two rapporteurs have not come to fruition, and that ENVI has not informed AGRI of a precise committee calendar.

He also lambasted the fact that the ENVI rapporteur has already published her draft report without the timetable being jointly agreed, “which puts our good cooperation under further strain”.

Basically, Lins asked Metsola to go against Canfin’s wishes and give her blessing for the joint hearing anyway.

The ENVI committee’s rapporteur on the file, Sarah Wiener, published her proposal last Friday (10 February), but maintained that she had ‘suggested meetings’ with her agriculture counterpart, socialist Clara Aguilera, to discuss the timetable. She also said that ENVI’s working on the file “was never brought up as a problem”.

She, therefore, told EURACTIV that the reaction of the AGRI coordinators was “incomprehensible”.

Sadly for King Met-solomon, splitting the proposal in half will SURely only make matters worse in this case.

But one thing’s for sure – this is not the first or last time the Parliament will be split over this ANGRI vs ENVY power struggle.

Agrifood Podcast: European Parliament’s pesticide LEAK and new toys

Agrifood Podcast: European Parliament’s pesticide LEAK and new toys

This week, EURACTIV’s agrifood team brings you the latest from the European Parliament’s front of the EU’s pesticide framework revision. We comment on the leaked draft document put forward by Austrian Green MEP and Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, Sarah …

Agrifood stories this week

LEAK: EU emission-cutting plan hits three times more pig, poultry farms than thought
The EU’s plans to slash industrial emissions could hit over three times as many pig farms and almost four times as many poultry farms as previously suggested due to the use of outdated 2016 data sets, according to a leaked Commission’s document seen by EURACTIV. Natasha Foote has the story.

Commission’s actions on fertilisers not long-term enough, MEPs warn
European lawmakers see Commission’s recent communication on fertilisers as just a first step to ensuring the EU’s strategic autonomy in this sector, suggesting to consider more long-term actions to support struggling farmers. Paula Andrés brings you the details

Integrated pest management struggling to gain ground in France
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is struggling to gain traction in France, despite being promoted by both the EU and the French authorities and having proven benefits for farmers and the environment. Hugo Struna has more.

EU targets blamed for stalling pest management progress in Greece
The rollout of integrated pest management (IPM) has been beset with setbacks in Greece over the last decade despite some positive results, with farmers taking umbrage with ‘restrictive’ EU targets which they see as stalling progress. EURACTIV Greece’s Marianthi Pelekanaki brings you more.

Agri-bites

Nitrate pollution. The EU Commission has decided to take Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to protect its population and ecosystems from nitrate pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources.

Beer for all. Costa Rica has removed a 10% tax on imported beers which had put EU beers at a disadvantage by making them more expensive than local beers according to the European Commission. The EU has been working with Costa Rica in the framework of our Association Agreement to resolve this long-standing issue.

Toward zero death in agriculture. The European Federation of Food Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) urged EU institutions to ensure actions needed to achieve zero death in the agricultural sector by 2030, in a letter addressed to MEPs and the European Commission. EFFAT recalled official statistics of 500 people losing lives every year in agriculture and forestry while another 150,00 suffer accidents. According to them, social conditionality can be a game changer for farm workers’ health and safety if correctly applied.

Winter Economic Forecast. The European Commission has published its winter 2023 Economic Forecast. Almost one year after Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU economy entered 2023 on a better footing than projected in autumn. However, “growth is still expected to slow down on the back of powerful headwinds and inflation will relinquish its grip on purchasing power only gradually over the coming quarters,” Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said.

Mercosur. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she had a “good call” with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva this week, stating on Twitter that she is keen to get the Mercosur agreement “across the finish line”. The president added that she is “looking forward to visiting Brazil soon”.

New Zealand trade agreement. The Commission presented the EU-New Zealand trade agreement for ratification this week. The deal, which was 14 years in the making including four years of negotiations, is the first ever to include the new EU approach towards trade and sustainable development, in which trade partners agree to follow internationally recognised environmental and social standards. Learn more about its impact on the agrifood sector.

New kid on the block. A new European Network for Agroecological Food Systems (ENAF) has been launched. ENAF seeks to complement what networks are doing by creating synergies and supporting shared efforts to promote the uptake of agroecology across Europe.

Sustainable food systems law. More than 280 civil society and trade union organisations signed a joint letter this week to urge Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to ensure that a strong proposal for an EU Sustainable Food Systems Law is presented by September 2023. “We acknowledge that this transition will present its own challenges and might create some resistance, but the EU and the rest of the world cannot bear the cost of inaction,” the letter reads. Check it out here.

CAP corner

CAP chats. EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski took part in EU farmers’ association COPA-COGECA’s Praesidia this week to discuss the current situation in agriculture, the implementation of the new CAP strategic plans and to reflect on the CAP post 2027 process, including crisis management and a potential increase in CAP budget.

Agrifood news from the CAPitals

CROATIA

Concerns over food quality in Croatia confirmed in recent findings. Undeclared and oftentimes cheaper ingredients were added to 5% of food products analysed on the local retail market, with meat, honey, milk and cheese being the most ‘spoiled’ foodstuffs, the Health Ministry has found. Read the full story. (David Spaic-Kovacic I EURACTIV.hr)

GERMANY

More nature protection in fishing areas. The European Commission has introduced new biodiversity protection measures in marine reserves within Germany’s exclusive economic zone in the North Sea. One of the main goals of the measures is the better protection of porpoises and marine birds. Germany’s fisheries and environment ministers welcomed the step. “If we protect the seas, we protect the basis of our fisheries,” fisheries minister Özdemir said. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)

NETHERLANDS

Cutting down on nitrogen emissions. The Dutch cabinet has announced it will be working towards the goal of reducing nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions to restore the vulnerable nature in the Netherlands. The government is also specifying the climate target for the agricultural sector in order to give direction to the area programs that the provinces are currently working on. In order to achieve this reduction, nitrogen precipitation in the Netherlands needs to be reduced by approximately 100 mol per hectare per year. Over the next few weeks, the Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Ministry will design regulations and train people who can guide farmers and companies in making the most appropriate choices for them, the ministry said on Friday (10 February). (Sofia Leeson I EURACTIV.com)

BELGIUM

Environmentalists take Flanders to court over pesticide policy. Five environmental organisations are suing the Flemish government over its pesticide policy, arguing it insufficiently regulates pesticide use and violates European law. In a statement, the organisations point to the fact that the EU has demanded been demanding that member states carry out impact assessments of pesticide use on nature protected by the EU Habitats Directive since 2004, but that Flanders has not done so. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)

GREECE

Excise duty on agricultural oil reimbursed ahead of elections. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the reimbursement of the excise duty on agricultural oil for the whole of 2023 during a press conference held on Tuesday (14 February) in Kozani. The measure amounts to €76 million in total. Addressing local apple growers, he also said there will be announcements soon for horizontal support and for varieties that may have been outside the initial planning, while the relevant instructions have already been given to the agriculture minister. (Marianthi Pelekanaki| EURACTIV.gr)

AUSTRIA

Funding for farms supplying their own energy. Austrian farms taking steps to become more self-sufficient in terms of energy supply can get state funding to boost these efforts since Wednesday (15 February). “Our farms have the potential to be true ‘power plants’ in rural areas,” agriculture minister Norbert Totschnig said in a statement. Among other things, farms can receive funding towards power storage, solar PV installations, and biomass boilers. (Julia Dahm I EURACTIV.de)

FRANCE

Government seeks to appease farmers after neonicotinoid ruling. All losses suffered by beet producers will be compensated should the beet yellows virus strike in 2023, the agriculture minister and industry representatives said at the end of last week, addressing concerns of farmers after a court struck down the option to use neonicotinoid-treated seeds. Find out more. (EURACTIV.fr)

SPAIN

Valentine’s flower sales resist price pressures. Flower sales for Valentine’s Day in Spain increased by 10% this year compared to last despite inflation and adverse weather conditions, according to industry association Interflora. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro has more.

Events

20 February | Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA)

21 February | Working party on plant health – Roosendaal Group

21 February | Working Party on International Food & Agricultural Questions

22 February | Eurostat webinar key figures on the European food chain

23 February | EURACTIV Twitter chat on forestry and climate change

24 February | Working party on financial agricultural questions