March 5. 2024. 2:35

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Agri stakeholders slam minister’s agreement on EU plans to slash emissions

After months of back and forth, EU ministers finally settled on their negotiating position on a proposal to see the EU’s industrial emissions slashed – but the agreement has not gone down well with farming stakeholders.

The proposed overhaul of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), 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).

However, the EU Council position which was agreed upon on Thursday (16 March) intends to increase the threshold for industrial livestock farming to 350 LSU for pigs and cattle and to 280 LSU for poultry, as well as a stepwise approach for mixed farms.

Moreover, the compromise includes provisions for an exemption for extensive farming to apply the requirements of the directive.

The set of amendments from EU ministers will be negotiated together with MEPs, who are expected to vote on their mandate in the summer.

Romina Pourmokhtari, Swedish minister for climate and the environment said the Council agreement “sets stronger rules to tackle pollution at the source”.

“This will set pollution limits at more effective levels and give clear guidance to the industry and large livestock farms to make the right investments so that their pollution is effectively reduced,” he said.

However, EU’s environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius took a more reserved approach, lamenting the fact that the agreement “lower[s] significantly the ambition of the Commission proposal on two points”, including on the threshold for agricultural emissions.

“We see farms in the EU getting larger and larger,” he said, noting that these large farms would not be covered under the Council agreement, despite being significant contributors to ammonia emissions.

As per the latest available data from 2020, only 3% of cattle farms would fall under the directive as per this agreement, he pointed out.

Member states push to exempt low-input livestock from law to cut emissions

Rearing of cattle or pigs in farms using extensive production systems should be exempted from the scope of the EU’s plans to slash industrial emissions, according to a leaked draft of the ministers’ general approach, which also proposes a stepwise approach for when the new rules should apply.

‘Free pass’ to industrial farming

But, for green groups, the agreement gives a free pass to industrial factory farms to “continue polluting with toxic chemicals and wreck the climate” and undermine EU attempts to better regulate industrial animal agriculture.

“The new environmental rules could have been applied to all big industrial farms, but ministers decided to amend the Commission’s proposal to grant factory farms big loopholes, such as lax farm size requirements and unworkable exemptions,” a statement from the campaign group Compassion in World Farming EU reads.

Meanwhile, animal welfare organisation Four Paws called the outcome ‘disappointing’, lamenting the fact that the farms rearing up to 20,000 laying hens or up to 1,167 pigs – compared to 10,714 and 500 respectively under the Commission’s proposal – would be excluded from the IED on the basis of protecting ‘small family farms’.

If ministers do not agree to strengthen EU environmental rules, in the “best-case scenario the EU would only reduce methane emissions from animal farming by 3.7% by 2030”, according to a statement from the group.

‘Industrial Disaster Directive’?

Meanwhile, the EU farmers’ association COPA-COGECA has criticised the IED for falling short in meeting EU farming community needs.

“The compromise reached by member states is far from being sufficient, leaving a lot of grey areas,” a statement from the association reads.

However, they welcomed the fact that the ‘heated debates’ surrounding the negotiations brought clarity on one point: the threshold approach proposed initially by the European Commission is “primarily political, punitive and will have unanticipated consequences when applied on-farm”.

“At this point, should one start talking rather about the agriculture IDD – “Industrial Disaster Directive”?” the statement questioned.

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.