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Commission approves approximately €46 million Romanian scheme to support the activity of cattle breeders affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a more than 225 million RON Romanian scheme (approx. €46m) to support the activity of cattle breeders in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the public support will take the form of direct grants to partially address the loss of income the cattle breeders suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found that the Romanian scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the aid does not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary active in the primary agricultural sector provided by the Temporary Framework; and (ii) the scheme will run until 31 December 2021.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3) (b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.62827 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Agriculture

Proposed lift on USA lamb ban welcome news for industry

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The FUW met with the USDA in 2016 to discuss lamb export opportunities. From left, US agricultural specialist Steve Knight, US Counselor for agricultural affairs Stan Phillips, FUW senior policy officer Dr Hazel Wright and FUW President Glyn Roberts

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed news that the long standing ban on importing Welsh lamb into the United States is to be lifted soon. The announcement was made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday 22 September. 

The FUW has long discussed the prospect of lifting the unjustified ban with the USDA in various meetings over the past decade. Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales have highlighted that the potential market for PGI Welsh Lamb in the USA is estimated to be worth as much as £20 million a year within five years of the export restrictions being removed.

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Speaking from his Carmarthenshire sheep farm, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman, said: “Now more than ever we need to explore other export markets while also protecting our long established markets in Europe. The US market is one we are keen to develop much stronger relationships with and the news that this ban could soon be lifted is most welcome news for our sheep industry.”

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Agriculture

Agriculture: Commission approves new geographical indication from Hungary

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The Commission has approved the addition of ‘Szegedi tükörponty' from Hungary in the register of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI). ‘Szegedi tükörponty' is a fish of the carp species, produced in Szeged region, near Hungary's southern border, where a system of fish ponds was created. The alkaline water of the ponds gives the fish a particular vitality and resilience. The flaky, reddish, flavorsome flesh of the fish farmed in these ponds, and its fresh aroma with no side-tastes, can be directly attributed to the specific saline land.

The quality and flavour of the fish are directly influenced by the good oxygen supply at the lake bed in the fish ponds created on saline soil. The flesh of ‘Szegedi tükörponty' is high in protein, low in fat and very flavoursome. The new denomination will be added to the list of 1563 products already protected in the eAmbrosia database. More information online on quality products.

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Will MEPs bolster the Farm to Fork Strategy?

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This Thursday and Friday (9-10 September), the European Parliament’s AGRI and ENVI committees are voting on their reaction to the EU Farm to Fork Strategy. The European Parliament’s Agriculture (AGRI) and Environment (ENVI) committees are voting on their joint own-initiative report on the Farm to Fork Strategy, which sets out how the EU aims to make the food system “fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly”. The amendments to the report will be voted upon on Thursday.

Then, MEPs from both committees are expected to approve their joint Farm to Fork Strategy report on Friday and send it to plenary for a final vote scheduled for early October. The scientific evidence shows that the EU food system is currently not sustainable, and that major changes are needed in how we produce, trade and consume food if we are to respect our international commitments and planetary boundaries. The Farm to Fork Strategy, presented by the European Commission in 2020 as a central element of the European Green Deal, is a potential game-changer in this area. This is because it breaks through silos and brings together multiple policy initiatives that aim to make the food system more sustainable.

Nevertheless, agricultural stakeholders and farm ministers have given the Farm to Fork Strategy a lukewarm reception. This is because they support the continued use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics in EU farming – despite the environmental harm they do – and the Strategy calls the widespread use of these agrochemicals into question. Now, it’s over to the European Parliament to establish its position on the Strategy, which will send a strong political signal to the European Commission. This is especially timely with the UN Food Systems Summit taking place in two weeks time and the second edition of the Farm to Fork Conference in October.

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“MEPs cannot miss this golden opportunity to bolster the Farm to Fork Strategy and make it central to delivering the EU’s climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals for 2030,” said Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Food and Agriculture at WWF’s European Policy Office. “The Strategy has a lot of potential to make our food systems more sustainable, if implemented at the scale needed. The Parliament can now give an essential impetus for this to happen.”

Overall, the European Parliament report must endorse the ambition of the Farm to Fork Strategy and call on the European Commission to fully develop and extend the policy initiatives covered under the strategy. More specifically, WWF considers it particularly important that MEPs support compromise amendments asking to:

Base the future EU law on sustainable food systems on the latest scientific knowledge and involve stakeholders from a broad variety of perspectives to ensure a legitimate and inclusive process. Introduce robust seafood traceability mechanisms that provide accurate information on where, when, how and which fish has been caught or farmed for all seafood products regardless of whether it is EU-caught or imported, fresh or processed.

Acknowledge that a population-wide shift in consumption patterns is needed, including addressing the overconsumption of meat and ultra-processed products, and present a protein transition strategy covering both the demand and the supply side to lower environmental and climate impacts.

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Encourage action to curb food waste occurring at the primary production level and early stages of the supply chain, including unharvested food, and set binding targets for food waste reduction at every stage of the supply chain. Introduce mandatory due diligence for supply chains to ensure EU imports are free of not only deforestation but also of any type of ecosystem conversion and degradation – and do not lead to any adverse impacts on human rights.

After the vote on Thursday, AGRI MEPs will also rubber-stamp the political agreement on the Common Agricultural Policy, reached in June. This is a standard procedure in EU policy-making and no surprises are expected.

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