Brussels, 15 February 2022
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will take place on Monday 21 February from 10.00 in Brussels. The meeting will be chaired by the French Minister for Agriculture and Food, Julien Denormandie. The European Commission will be represented by the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, and the Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski.
The meeting will begin with the adoption of ‘A’ items, and will continue with an exchange of views on ways to strengthen coherence between the Green Deal, the common agricultural policy and the EU’s trade policy with a view to supporting the transition towards sustainable food systems. During the lunch break, ministers will take part in an informal discussion about the future of the common fisheries policy, chaired by the French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin.
In the afternoon, ministers will hold a policy debate on the proposed regulation on deforestation- free products. The afternoon session will conclude with a discussion on the market situation for agricultural products.
During the meeting, under other business, the Commission will present its reports on the phytosanitary measures on imports into the EU and on the extension of the use of plant passports in the EU. Ministers will also discuss the need to improve the welfare of dogs kept and sold for commercial purposes; emergency funding for the pigmeat sector; the revision of the agricultural promotion policy; the labelling of free-range eggs; and drought conditions in Portugal and Spain. They will also exchange views on the need to ensure a fair income for farmers affected by high input prices.
A press conference with Mr Denormandie and Mr Wojciechowski will take place on Monday evening.
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Ministers will hold a policy debate on the Commission’s proposal for a regulation on deforestation- free products. This proposal, which was published on 17 November 2021, aims to reduce deforestation by ensuring that products consumed on the EU market do not contribute to deforestation and forest degradation worldwide. It will do so by setting mandatory due-diligence rules for operators that introduce in the EU market commodities associated with deforestation (including derived products such as leather, chocolate and furniture).
The main driver of global deforestation and forest degradation is the expansion of agricultural land, which is linked to the production of those commodities included in the scope of the regulation: soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee. As a major importer of such commodities, the EU can reduce its impact on global deforestation and forest degradation by adopting new rules to minimise the entry into the EU market of these commodities and promoting the consumption of “deforestation-free” products.
Ministers will hold an exchange of views on ways to strengthen coherence between the European Green Deal, the common agricultural policy (CAP) and the EU’s trade policy with a view to supporting the transition towards sustainable food systems.
The EU is committed to making its agricultural, food and forestry sectors more resilient, sustainable, and respectful of the environment and animal welfare, so as to respond to the major challenges of our time – in particular those posed by climate change and the erosion of biodiversity. As part of the European Green Deal, the Commission has proposed a series of common objectives, including the ‘Fit for 55’ roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality in 2050 and the ‘farm to fork’ and ‘biodiversity’ strategies.
In order for the transition towards sustainable food systems to be a success, coherence should be strengthened between the relevant EU policies, in particular the CAP and trade policy, so as to ensure that these policies contribute to the aims of the Green Deal and related EU policy initiatives.
Based on information provided by the Commission and member states, ministers will hold an exchange of views on the market situation with regard to agricultural products. The discussion will focus in particular on: issues in the pigmeat sector; the impact on agriculture of rising energy, fertiliser and feed costs; and other developments affecting agriculture as raised by member states.
Reports on the phytosanitary measures on imports into the EU and on the extension of the use of plant passports in the EU
The Commission will present reports on two areas relating to plant health legislation: the enforcement and effectiveness of plant health measures relating to imports into EU territory, and the extension of the plant passport system to all movement of plants for planting within the EU’s territory.
The aim of EU rules on plant health is to contribute to sustainable agricultural and horticultural production and help protect public and private green spaces, forests and the natural landscape. They also seek to promote safe trade and mitigate the impacts of climate change on crops and forests. The rules were updated by the Plant Health Regulation, which entered into force on 14 December 2019.
The Danish delegation will take the floor to discuss the need to improve the welfare and health of dogs kept for commercial purposes. Several issues relating to the import of dogs have been identified in Denmark, such as health issues, behavioural problems and the sale of puppies under eight weeks old. There are currently no common rules regarding the commercial keeping and sale of dogs in the EU. The Danish delegation therefore invites the Commission to introduce common EU legislation on dog welfare as part of the planned revision of EU animal welfare legislation.
The Polish delegation will provide information about challenges facing the pigmeat sector in Europe. The sector is currently experiencing difficulties as a result of negative trends such as oversaturation of the EU internal market due to high production rates and export disruptions, high feed and energy prices, further outbreaks of African swine fever and the continuing negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Polish delegation will provide information about the revision of the EU’s agricultural promotion policy. The EU’s agricultural promotion policy helps its farmers and food industry sell their products in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. The Commission is currently undertaking a review of the policy, with a view to enhancing its contribution to sustainable production and consumption. A legislative proposal on this topic is expected in the first semester of 2022.
The Dutch delegation will provide information about the impact of avian influenza on the labelling of free-range eggs. Since late 2021 a number of member states, including the Netherlands, have required laying hens to be kept indoors in order to combat the epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza. According to EU legislation on marketing standards, eggs can only be labelled as free- range if the period of confinement lasts for a maximum of 16 weeks. Beyond this period, the eggs of hens kept indoors must be sold as ‘barn eggs’ and the labels must be changed accordingly.
The Portuguese and Spanish delegations will provide information about the impact on agriculture of drought conditions. Portugal and Spain are currently experiencing one of the most severe droughts in the last twenty years. Due to low rainfall levels recorded in January, both countries have been hit by a period of extreme aridity. These low rainfall levels, which have persisted since the end of last year, are of concern to Portuguese and Spanish farmers. The Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) estimates that 54% of the country is experiencing moderate drought conditions, while the rest is suffering from severe or extreme conditions. In Spain rainfall levels in January were 75% lower than average, according to the Spanish meteorological agency AEMET. The delegations will seek support measures, including increasing advance payments for direct EU subsidies, an exemption from the diversification requirement under the force majeure clause, and for other measures to be explored.
The Austrian delegation will provide information on the need to ensure a fair income for EU farmers. They will highlight the threat that persistently low incomes pose for agricultural holdings. They will then discuss instruments that could potentially increase producers’ incomes, such as the UTP directive, producer organisations (POs), sustainable agricultural practices, increased consumer awareness, and mandatory EU-wide labelling of origin.
Source – EU Council: Background brief – Agriculture and Fisheries Council, 21/02/2022