While Brussels was quiet during August, the continued work of the Brexit Task Force 50 Team ensured the Commission was particularly active on one of IFA’s most pressing concerns.
The first week of September will bring a full schedule of meetings including the Informal Agriculture Council Meeting in Estonia on September 4th – 5th and COPA policy coordinating meetings later in the week.
The latest on Brexit
Significant progress was not achieved by the conclusion of the third round of Brexit negotiations last week. This was clearly evident from the body language and interchange during the press conference at the end of the week’s talks.
The UK does not recognise a legal obligation to meet the settlement amounts outlined by the Commission and therein lies the blockage that might inform European sentiment when decisions on ‘sufficient progress’ are made at the October Council Meeting.
During Guy Verhofstadt’s address to his Parliamentary Colleagues it was evident that at this point it is not clear that sufficient progress has been reached. The German Government elections taking place on September 24th will now loom large and the European Union will seek to maintain a cohesive and strong negotiating stance.
IFA President Joe Healy’s letter to Minister Creed following further weakening of Sterling this week is well timed. The market disturbance effects of Brexit will need to be addressed at an EU level particularly for vulnerable sectors such as beef and mushrooms.
Protecting Irish agriculture in trade negotiations
IFA will meet in the coming weeks with DG Trade to highlight the huge sensitivity of the beef sector to any form of Mercosur deal. Meanwhile, the Agriculture Committee in Parliament this week discussed the trade negotiating mandates for Australia and New Zealand.
French MEP, Eric Andrieu’s opinion highlighted the concerns that IFA have voiced in the corridors of Brussels including the sensitivity of the beef and sheep sectors, the effect of accumulated concessions, Brexit, the effects of non-tariff barriers and the risk of agriculture acting as a pawn for the access of industrial products in any final agreement. John Clarke from DG Agriculture pointed out EU trade gains, however, with populations of 4.7m (New Zealand) and 24m (Australia), the EU’s 500m is hugely attractive for those big agriculture exporting nations.
Public Consultation on Food Chain
The Commission has launched a public consultation on the Food Chain as they seek to inform an impact assessment process which may lead to regulation and governance measures at EU level.
IFA will contribute to this consultation and COPA will discuss its position including at the Food Chain Working Group which is chaired by IFA President Joe Healy.
Fertiliser tariffs review
Last month, the Official Journal of the European Commission included notification of initiation of a partial interim review of the anti-dumping measures applicable to imports of ammonium nitrate originating in Russia.
This was in response to IFA’s campaign on the issue and a request from seven farming Associations including IFA, and one Cooperative.
The recognition by the Commission of the change in market conditions since the measures were introduced in 1995 has contributed to the review which will involve European importers as well as producers in Europe and Russia and will last up to 15 months. The IFA is among the registered interested parties to the investigation.
Illegal use of Fipronil in poultry sector
The Commission discussed the non-compliance issue among poultry farms regarding the illegal use of the insecticide Fipronil and informed Parliament of the blocks placed on implicated laying hen farms including Belgium, Netherlands Germany, France, Italy and Hungary.
Contaminated eggs, egg products and chicken meat have reached the market in 22 Member States. While the public health risk is low there were concerns over the early system alert as the Commission were only informed of the issue on July 20th, despite retrospective testing showing presence of Fipronil as early as September 2016.
Precision Agriculture and the Future of Farming
Professor De Baerdemarker presented a scientific foresight study to Parliament’s Agriculture Committee this week and highlighted the means for policy makers to further drive the adoption of technology in agriculture as the positive opportunities are compelling. He indicated that for organisations such as the IFA, adoption and adaption of smart phone technology through specific apps is a key enabler.
Monday and Tuesday’s informal Ag Council in Tallinn will focus on risk management measures and tools in face of price volatility and climate change, treatment of crisis reserve, mandatory/voluntary use of direct payments as risk management tool in addition to a discussion on the Fipronil issue in poultry sector.
Preparation continues ahead of President Juncker’s State of the Union Address which will be delivered on Wednesday.