Congress of European Farmers 2014 calls for help for family farms and agri-cooperatives to meet their potential

Farm Leaders from across Europe gathered in Brussels today and adopted a major declaration underlining the huge benefits of European Family Farms and Agri-Cooperatives in boosting EU economic growth, providing quality food, helping to feed the world and care for the environment.

But farm leaders warned, at a Congress attended by over 500 participants, that they are living in turbulent times and big improvements must be made, including a major simplification of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the use of crisis funds, to enable them to achieve their full potential. To deal with the crisis caused by the Russian ban on EU farm export swiftly, a permanent application of article 222 of the CAP is necessary to enable producer organisations like agri-cooperatives to react quickly.

Declaration underlining the multiple benefits of European Family Farms and Agri-Cooperatives and how to ensure that the new CAP realises their full economic potential

At the Congress of European Farmers 2014, during the United Nations International Year of Family Farming 2014, European farmers and agri-cooperatives adopted a declaration underlining the resilience and strength of family farms in tackling economic crises and other challenges. Key tools needed to realise their huge potential in creating jobs, boosting EU economic growth , providing quality food, helping to feed the world and caring for the environment were also outlined.

The EU agriculture sector, which employs almost 26 million people most of which are family farms handed down for generations, is the hub of EU rural areas, providing quality food supplies for 500 million European consumers at the same time as maintaining the environment and biodiversity. EU-28 agricultural production is worth over 400 billion euros. The EU is also the world’s number one exporter of agricultural and food products, representing three quarters of the EU net-trade balance. The EU agriculture and forestry sectors consequently make a big contribution to the EU Commission’s 2020 strategy for growth and employment.

Yet family farms and agri-cooperatives are facing more and more challenges like high input costs, climate change and an increasing risk of extreme weather events, barriers to trade. They are also presently being affected by international politics – something which they are not responsible for . Often the producer price drops resulting from these are not passed onto consumers, providing a new opportunity for retailers and others in the chain to increase their own margins and so causing additional imbalances in the EU agri-food chain.

We therefore urge EU leaders to support market research in order to find new market outlets and increase export promotion.

Non-tariff barriers to trade also prevent the EU from maximising its full trade potential in agri-food exports. For example, in the fruit and vegetable sector, phytosanitary barriers prevent European fruit from entering the US market. Different labelling and packaging regulations can also increase the price of a product dramatically. This must be tackled.

In addition, there is a risk with the new CAP that less transparency of the rules and more red tape will stifle investments and competitiveness in the sector.

To ensure generation renewal in the future, family farms – in all their forms – must be economically viable and profitable. Copa-Cogeca therefore calls on the European Council, Parliament and Commission to ensure family farms are prioritised in their agendas, key tools are provided and barriers to trade tackled. In particular, the European Council, Parliament and Commission must ensure that:

access to land and natural resources is provided for family farms;
investment in the sector is stepped up and research and innovation are boosted with knowledge transferred to farmers to encourage the uptake of innovative solutions;
conditions are established to help producer organisations like agri-cooperatives set up so that farmers can join forces to market their produce, add value to produce to get a higher return and better manage the extreme market volatility;
farmers are given proper training and education;
men and women should equally be supported in their efforts to develop good living conditions for themselves, their families and their community;
young farmers are given support as they face difficulties particularly when getting started;
The role of agricultural cooperatives is duly recognised and supported in response to the needs of family farms regarding market access as well as social and economic inclusion in the regions where they operate.
unfair and abusive practices in the food chain are addressed so that farmers have a better chance to get an income from the market;
non-tariff barriers to trade are tackled and products covered by Geographical Indications (GIs) are recognised and protected around the world;
to contribute to the fight against counterfeit food and agro-piracy;
the common nature of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is ensured and red tape reduced;
additional funds outside of the CAP budget are made available in times of crisis.

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