The Commission will publish at the end of April an action strategy on the agri-food sector called “Farm to Fork”. This strategy covers the entire sector, from animal farming and agricultural practices to the point of sales. The plan should set out five pillars for action: reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture, promoting organic farming, reducing food wastage, a new regulatory framework for livestock farming, and new food marketing rules. The entire agri-food sector is therefore facing a comprehensive reform of the regulatory framework.
In more detail, the strategy will provide for a reduction in pesticide use through legally binding, quantified targets. The Commission is also considering introducing a legislative proposal to harmonise the information given on the packaging of food products. This would concern in particular the nutrient profile as well as the origin of the products. In addition, a survey to assess food waste will be launched soon, which could have an impact on food marketing regulations. Finally, animal farming is to be radically reformed. The Commission advocates a shift from a meat-based to a vegetable protein-based diet for livestock. Furthermore, rules will be put in place to encourage carbon capture.
The measures to be announced in the plan will be open for public consultation in the near future. It is therefore essential for companies and associations in the agri-food sector to make their voices heard in Brussels, but also in Berlin and Paris in order to promote their interests.
In December 2019, the new European Commission presented the European Green Deal. The ultimate goal of the European Green Deal is to make the European Union the first climate neutral continent by 2050. To meet this objective, the European Commission will embark on a comprehensive review of existing and ongoing legislative measures and consider rolling out new detailed rules. Aside from the obvious focus on climate neutrality, bold action will be taken in other areas, including energy transition, agriculture, circular economy and sustainable transport. The European Green Deal is not only a political commitment, but a concrete new agenda that will shape European policy for the years to come. In that sense, the European Green Deal will affect all businesses and investors.
More concretely, the European Green Deal will affect all businesses that are working in the coal market. There will be a rapid shift towards renewable resources and a quick phase out on coal. When it comes to agriculture, there will be a large focus on land use as well as nutrients, chemicals and water. In relation to transport, there will be interruptions and opportunities for cars, ships and planes industries and service providers. Plastic producers will also face revamped rules that would demand higher standards on re-use and recyclability.
In sum, the European Green Deal will mark a shift in European policy. All businesses, whether leaders in the above-mentioned sectors or simply challenged by the new policies, must develop a government affairs strategy to avoid disruptions.
On 2 March 2020, the European Commission commenced a consultation process with all stakeholders aimed at reviewing the existing legal framework on food irradiation. The goal of the European Commission is two-fold. On one hand, the European Commission wants to assess whether the free movement of irradiated foodstuff within the internal market still works. On the other hand, the European Commission wants to assess whether the current rules ensure a high degree of protection of human health and the environment.
Currently, EU rules on food irradiation date back to 1991. The legislation focuses above all on defining the process of irradiation. They also specify the limits to the irradiation process while providing the grounds when irradiation may be authorized. In fact, there is an EU list of food and food ingredients for irradiation that includes a wide variety of products. In addition, EU law imposes labeling requirements when food and food ingredients have undergone irradiation. Last, it stipulates that EU countries must have uniform standards to detect irradiated food. The latter created by the European Committee for Standardization.
The start of the consultation signals the beginning of the process to assess whether EU legislation on food irradiation is fit for purpose. All views must be received by May 25, 2020. The process is especially important for food business operators in general and suppliers of services to irradiation facilities and manufacturers of irradiation equipment and materials in particular.
The European Commission has recently launched a public consultation on its State aid framework in the agriculture sector, which is set to expire in December 2020. State aid control in the period 2021 to 2027 needs to be adapted to the future legal framework of the Common Agricultural Policy. The European Commission aims at strengthening the level playing field in the agriculture sector as well as fostering competitiveness and growth of the enterprises concerned.
The review of the rules is also expected to take into consideration factors related to climate and sustainable use of natural resources. European stakeholders are thus invited to provide their input to shape the future legal framework. Environmental NGOs have already advocated for an end to State aids for those agricultural practices that have a negative environmental impact, such as intensive livestock farming. However, such an option is likely to affect negatively many small and medium enterprises.
The European Commission has issued a public consultation to evaluate legislation on additives for use on animal nutrition. The review will cover substances, microorganisms or preparations added to feed to influence the feed or have an effect in the animal.
Currently, only additives that have been through an authorisation may be placed in the market and used. The review will cover the procedure for authorising feed additives. Similarly, the evaluation will deal with the rules for the placing in the market, labelling and use of additives. At the same time, the evaluation will cover all categories of additives. It will assess preservatives, antioxidants and stabilising agents. On top, it will deal with flavourings and colorants. Nutritional additives such as vitamins, minerals and aminoacids will also be evaluated.
Companies and business organisations that will be affected by the review and possible amendments to the regulation should put forward their views before 3 April 2019.
The European Union has picked up President Donald Trump’s tariffs challenge and is considering responding with trade countermeasures. The WTO rules afford its members the possibility to impose temporary levies as safeguard. At the same time, it allows its members to retaliate proportionately in case the new trade restrictions are not adequately compensated within 90 days.
The European Commission is ready to exercise these retaliatory policies against the announced tariffs by the US administration, namely 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. Experts estimate that the tariffs to be imposed by President Trump could affect €6bn in steel and aluminum exports. While the EU still hopes to avoid a full-blown trade war, European Commission officials have already presented EU member states with €2.8bn list of more than 100 US products that could be affected.
The retaliation would likely affect a variety of products from sensitive Republican-dominated states, such as cosmetics and clothing, Harley-Davidson motorbikes, orange juice from Florida and bourbon-whiskey from Kentucky. This list is on hold for the time being and it would require the approval by EU member states.
The EU is determined to simplify and modernize the Common Agricultural Policy (“CAP”). This follows the 2016 findings of the Agricultural Markets Task Force and the Inception Impact Assessment, which was recently concluded.
Overall the aim of the review is to strengthen the position of European farmers and producers. More concretely, the revision will single out and address existing obstacles in the functioning of the food supply chain concerning agricultural products.
The agricultural reform will be on the agenda of the European Commission going forward. Concrete proposals will follow suit, concerning market transparency, unfair trading practices as well as monitoring of parcels with state of the art technologies.
It is expected that for one, the EU will hold large retailers more accountable towards producers in the supply chain, and secondly, that digital farming and the use of modern technologies will be further promoted. A public consultation is currently open for all stakeholders until mid-November 2017.