Brussels: 13 October 2016
A series of meetings to reflect on the sector of sheep meat, conducted at the request of Phil Hogan, was completed today.
For the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC), present at this meeting, this is the perfect opportunity for the European Union to finally acknowledge the true value of the invaluable expertise of sheep farmers in our countries, whether in polyculture farming in lowland areas or in more difficult mountain or island areas. Sheep production plays a major socio-economic and environmental role in rural areas and in the development of those.
The conclusions of the report outline some interesting tracks: a CAP that supports more extensive grazing and grass systems; the reaffirmed need to maintain coupled support and disadvantaged areas; the urgency to deal with the predation problem; a review of the compliance system for sheep farmers, especially on electronic identification and documentation of the movement of animals.
ECVC will be attentive to if a redesigned conditionality of this aid is engaged, based more on an obligation of results rather than means, favourable to small farms. As such, we strongly expect the end of the obligation of electronic identification for all European sheep flocks. Specific aid through a coupled support for maintaining a herd of ruminants must also continue with conditions favouring breeder-fattener systems, diverse and mixed grazing.
However, the development aspects of local markets and dangers of trade agreements are underestimated by the final report as it is.
For us, the first project for the European Commission is the implementation of a simplified system adapted to the reality of family farms, allowing an actual recognition of grasslands, given their multiple interests: ecological, nutritional, economical, healthy, landscape.
A real policy to protect and support pastoralism must be implemented in the first place, for:
- The recognition of the eligibility of grasslands in the CAP with appropriate conditionality in these areas for a simplified declaration for these farmers;
- Regulatory measures of the wolf population to rapidly lower predation pressure.
The second point, neglected at this stage by the European Commission, yet essential to a serene future for sheep farming is the preservation of a network of local abattoirs and the development of innovative slaughter, mobile and at the farm. The relocation of activities is a major economical, environmental and societal issue.
Regarding the overall strategic direction of the industry, there should be more emphasis on:
- The recapture of the domestic market which begins with the final cessation of European trade policy multiplying free trade agreements, and liberalization that has done so much harm to the European sheep sector with the granting of quotas to New Zealand and Australia more than 30 years ago.
- The adequacy of supply to demand by developing the quality of our European products: food autonomy, quality of animal feed, development of local breeds, promotion of quality labels…
- Market regulation and a method of setting fair prices in order to allow to cover production costs of farmers and obtaining a decent income.
- The transition towards more sustainable and resilient systems for socio-economic challenges and current climate.
A strong link between food policy based on access to quality food for all and a coherent agricultural policy, focused on the protection of the incomes of numerous farmers on the field and many public goods guarantors, have been put forward as the first objective of the CAP reform to come. Instead, we fear that the only concrete measures issued by this work are still a promotion program.
We, European farmers, need a fair policy that strengthens the European cohesion and preservation of many farms in the territories. We, European breeders, are the lungs of our countrysides and mountains. Employment and vitality of our regions depends largely on us. Defence against fires, preservation of landscapes of tourist attractions, preservation of a culinary heritage of quality: Sheep farmers are among the first architects of these public goods. Commissioners, do not forget this!
Victor Pereira (FR ; EN ; PT) +33611391973