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E.U. Trends Likely to Influence U.S. Agriculture.

01/16/2021

According to USDA-FAS GAIN report E42021-0007 released on January 12th 2021, a number of trends affecting E.U. agricultural policy emerged from the Farm to Fork Conference held in mid-October 2020.  The objective of the meeting was to create an international alliance and to develop global standards on sustainability and welfare.  The Conference was strongly supported by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and by the Agricultural and Health Commissioners of Germany and other prominent EU states.  Items considered by the Farm to Fork conference that have relevance to the U.S. include:-


E.U. nations before BREXIT

 


E.U. Commissioner Ursala von der Leyden
  • The European Green Deal

This initiative to be enacted in the proposed Climate Law will be legally binding for all 27 European Union member states. The proposal will establish carbon neutrality by 2050 and progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The outgoing U.S. Administration has consistently denied the reality of climate change and has relaxed environmental regulations contrary to movements in the Europe and Asia.  This was exemplified by withdrawal from the Paris Accords and characterizing coal as “beautiful and clean”.  It is anticipated that the incoming Administration will reverse many of the policy decisions of the past four years and move towards commonality with the E.U. as a condition for trade.  On December 17th, all 27 E.U. Ministers of the Environment adopted the European Council position on the Climate Law incorporating a target of 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to the 1990 base.

  • Mandatory Nutrition Labeling

The E.U. will harmonize front-of-pack nutrition labeling by the end of 2022.  The intent is to provide consumers with information enabling health-conscious choices with adoption of the Nutri-Score labeling as introduced in France and since adopted by Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.  Given that many U.S. producers of food products are subsidiaries of multinational corporations such as Nestle and Danone, it is anticipated that the front-of-pack nutrition labeling will eventually be adopted in the U.S.

  • Establishing Nutrient Profiles

The restrictions on salt, sugars and fat established by Regulation #1924 in 2006 will be fully implemented before the end of 2022. It is anticipated that there will be harmonization of nutritional specifications among industrialized nations of the northern hemisphere motivated by trade and health considerations.

  • Animal Welfare labeling

 A November 3rd 2020 meeting of the E.U. Platform on Animal Welfare announced a committee to produce a report by mid 2021 to evaluate consumer awareness and the economic impact of mandatory welfare standards. Julia Kloeckner, the German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture stated, "a common E.U. label for animal welfare would increase credibility and transparency in our markets and would enable consumers to make more informed choices and would help reward producers who comply with standards”.

  • Country of Origin Labeling

The European ministers of agriculture considered Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in mid-December 2020. Given a number of foodborne health incidents associated with certain E.U. producer nations, this provision that could be regarded as discriminatory and possibly in contravention of WTO Regulations indicates concern among member nations. 

  • Product Dating

The EU will propose revisions to existing rules relating to use by and best before dates.  An improvement of presentation format or wording will be developed possibly abandoning the best before descriptor.

  • Chemical-based Pesticides

The European Commission will take action to reduce the application and by extension, exposure of consumers to chemical pesticides.  A target of 50 percent reduction by 2030 is envisaged.

  • Feed Additives

The Commission will consider the adoption of sustainable and innovative feed additives by revising current legislation.  Additives will be promoted on the basis of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to sustainable farming.

  • Promoting Organic Farming

As part of the Biodiversity Strategy, the European commission set a goal of 25 percent of agricultural land for organic farming by 2030, up from the current eight percent.  Well-meaning legislatures will have to reconcile the need for food with the inherent inefficiency of organic farming as we know it.  A legislative proposal relating to the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy is expected by the end of the current year.

The EU has a long history of advancing welfare, sustainability and reducing the impact of agriculture and industry on climate change. The E.U. comprises close to 500 million in population (including the UK) and is the world's largest trading group with defined rules and procedures. Accordingly the U.S. cannot ignore trends in agriculture if we are to trade freely and enjoy political and cultural relations to our mutual benefit.