Co-ops urge EU to keep agriculture, forestry top of agenda

Farmers and their co-ops have called on the next leaders of the EU to keep agriculture and forestry at the top of all agendas.

The call came as the dust settles on the European Parliament elections and the process begins to nominate and elect the next Commission president in succession to Jean-Claude Juncker.

Copa and Cogeca stressed in an open letter to the future EU leaders that a strong EU needs strong agriculture, and a strong agriculture needs Europe. The umbrella bodies represent over 23 million farmers and their families (Copa) and the interests of 22,000 agricultural co-operatives (Cogeca) Copa and Cogeca predicted that the coming political cycle has the potential to define the shape of Europe for generations to come. There will be difficult debates on generation renewal, on low farm income, market volatility and climate change.

The letter stressed that farmers and their co-ops want to deliver the type of agriculture that European citizens expect and demand.

It defined that as an agriculture that provides a high level of food security and high standards of quality, welfare, sustainability and environmental protection.

The letter asked how can Europe become a bio-based economy and a carbon sequestration champion without its agricultural and forestry sectors.

“How can we keep rural Europe vibrant and ensure a dynamic trade balance without the farmers and co-operatives of Europe?”

It stressed that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is, and must continue to be, the policy that supports European farmers in delivering these objectives.

“Family farms, agricultural co-operatives and other agricultural and forestry undertakings in all their diversity play a key role in this process. The CAP, as a cornerstone of the EU’s policies, is a partnership between agriculture and society, and between Europe and its farmers.”

Copa and Cogeca said DG AGRI should retain its strategic responsibility for EU agricultural and rural development policies and continue as the lead department in all aspects of the CAP.

Its role and responsibilities should be strengthened to enhance the co-ordination of policies that impact European farmers’ and the activities of agri-co-operatives.

“Indeed, DG AGRI contributes significantly to several of the Commission’s political priorities, including trade, jobs, growth and investment, and the internal market.”

Copa and Cogeca appealed to the future EU leaders to deliver the institutional and policy framework that will feed Europe’s future.

“For the past 60 years, the CAP has been the glue that holds the European project and agriculture together,” added the letter, which was signed by the respective presidents of Copa (Joachim Rukwied) and Cogeca (Thomas Magnusson).

Meanwhile, Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed chaired the inaugural meeting of the new CAP post-2020 Consultative Committee in Ireland.

It will provide a forum to allow stakeholders express their views and remain updated as the CAP reform discussions progress.

Minister Creed said he sees the Committee as having an important role in considering how to deal with the challenges ahead and lead the development of one of the most efficient and sustainable agri-food sectors in the world.

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