Agri Commissioner admits data weakness in EU plans to slash emissions
EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski defended the European Commission’s ambition to slash emissions in livestock farming, despite acknowledging weaknesses in the data collection process used to put the proposal together.
The proposed overhaul of the directive, unveiled by the EU executive in April 2022, aims to reduce harmful emissions coming from industrial installations, the scope of which is being expanded to include some of the largest livestock farms in the EU.
The Commission put forward its proposal, including its controversial proposed threshold of 150 ‘livestock units’ (LSUs) – the point at which farms will be defined as ‘industrial’ and therefore penalised under the directive (see below for details).
The threshold has been a point of contention for many stakeholders, including EU agriculture ministers, who deem it too low, thus unfairly penalising smaller farmers.
Asked whether he stands by the Commission’s figure of 150 LSU in light of the backlash, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told EURACTIV on the sidelines of a recent event that he was aware this was a “generally controversial directive”.
Despite this, he stressed that, as a member of the Commission, he “has to support the political Commission position”.
However, the Commissioner impressed the importance of taking the “specific situation across the sector more into account”, pointing out that he has “presented his reservations” on the proposal and successfully lobbied to increase the LSU figure from 100 to 150.
For the Commissioner, the most important question is not the number of livestock on a farm, but the method of farming.
“These [larger] farms can be also sustainable, this is not the question of the number of units,” he said, pointing to cattle farms that practise extensive and summer grazing.
“This is not similar to industry, this is a question first of all of the type of farming,” he said, pointing to differences within the agriculture sector, such as between cattle and poultry farms.
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three times as many pig farms and almost four times as many poultry farms as previously suggested due to the use of outdated 2016 data sets, according to a leaked Commission’s document seen by EURACTIV.
Recently, EURACTIV revealed that the data used as the basis for the Commission’s proposal was outdated, as more recent data was not available at the time of drafting.
However, according to a leaked document seen by EURACTIV, when factoring in 2020 data, the percentage of farms predicted to be impacted by the proposal tripled in some sectors, including the poultry and pig sectors.
However, the absolute number of farms impacted dropped. This is due to the changing landscape of the EU farming sector, which has consolidated smaller farms into fewer, larger farms.
Asked about the findings of the leaked document, the Commissioner acknowledged the issue.
“I know this problem,” he said, reiterating that when the draft of this directive was “prepared [with] the last available data, which were from 2016”.
He added that “our decisions should be based always on the actual data”, noting that “there is a problem [with] the system of collection data, we have not always the last data”.
Asked whether this figure should be revised accordingly with updated data, the Commissioner agreed.
“Yes, this is the new situation because we have observed the process of concentration of the farms in some member states,” he said.
One livestock unit (LSU) consists of the grazing equivalent of one adult dairy cow producing 3,000 kg of milk annually.
According to these calculations, 150 livestock units are equivalent to 150 adult cows, or 375 calves, or 10,000 laying hens, 500 pigs, or 300 sows.