It is a great pleasure for me to pay my third visit to the Salon. It is, of course, one of the highlights of the agricultural year in Europe and, as such, a great opportunity for me to engage with stakeholders from the French agriculture sector.
Visits of this nature also provide an opportunity for important political engagement and I was particularly honoured to have been invited to meet Prime Minister Cazeneuve. This was my second successive year meeting the Prime Minister and I believe that these meetings demonstrate the importance with which the French government regards agriculture.
I want also to take this opportunity to acknowledge the role and contribution of Minister Stephane Le Foll to and on behalf of French agriculture. As Minister for nearly five years, he has been a strong and articulate advocate on behalf of French farmers and somebody who has represented their interests very well in Brussels and as a constructive and influential member of the G7 and G20 groups of Ministers. I want to acknowledge my personal appreciation for the positive and constructive relationship which Stephane and I have had since I became Commissioner.
In my meeting with the Prime Minister and Minister Le Foll, we focused a lot on the future of the CAP. As the largest beneficiary from the CAP, France has a very keen interest in maintaining a strong and well-funded policy which supports French farmers, particularly at times of difficult market circumstances, such as we saw through 2015 and 2016. I am determined to maintain a policy that continues to deliver on the key objectives of the CAP and I look forward to the active support of the French government in that pursuit.
Today, I have been around the Salon and had the opportunity to speak to a number of key stakeholders in the French agri-food sector. I have listened carefully to their concerns and have assured them of my commitment to ensure that we have a Common Agricultural Policy that gives them the tools to more effectively deal with the kind of market volatility with which farmers had to deal during the last two years.
During difficult market conditions, we saw the value of effective market monitoring as the basis for market transparency. The setting up of effective monitoring structures for agricultural markets is one of the key strategic objectives for my services, in particular through the establishment of Market Observatories for key agricultural sectors.
Two Market Observatories are already in place for Milk and Meat and have proven to be useful tools to guarantee market transparency and market analysis.
I have listened carefully to the calls from farmers in the arable crops sector of the need to monitor the market more closely, having regard to the importance of the sector for EU agriculture, not least here in France, and the forthcoming end of the quota regime in the sugar sector. I was pleased, therefore, to reassure the farmers’ organisations which I saw today that I have initiated the process of creating two new Market Observatories Crops (Cereals, Oilseeds, Protein crops) and for Sugar. Both should be in place before the summer 2017.
Building upon the positive experience of the existing Market Observatories, the activities of these two new Observatories for Crops and for Sugar will focus on the same two core objectives of market data dissemination and short-term market analysis.
In the course of my meeting with the farm groups, I encouraged them and their members to participate fully in the public consultation on the modernisation and simplification of the CAP, which I launched four weeks ago and which remains open for a further eight weeks. Already, we have received in excess of 11 000 responses.
I was also particularly pleased to have the opportunity to visit the stand of the FNSEA and be able to participate in a short tribute to their late President, Xavier Beulin, whose untimely and sudden death ten days ago stunned us all. It was an opportunity to express my sympathy to the members of the FNSEA, who Mr Beulin led with such distinction and effectiveness.
Finally, I began my visit to the Salon last night with a presentation of prizes to a number of European Young farmers and I concluded my visit, just before coming here, by meeting students of second-level agricultural schools. I am grateful for the opportunity to be associated with both events.
I have identified the issue of generational renewal as a priority for the future of the CAP and the level of enthusiasm for and interest in becoming involved in farming both last night and again this morning was hugely encouraging. Meeting these young people and young people like them throughout the EU reassures me that the future of European farming is in very capable hands, if only we can provide the opportunity for these young people to get those hands on the levers of power.