Support and maintain agricultural activity, essential to the food autonomy of our continent

By Anne Sander, MEP (EPP Group, France), Member of the AGRI Committee

Europe has always moved forward with crises, which have made us stronger and stronger. We have just gone through an unprecedented ordeal; it has made us aware of our strengths and weaknesses. The agri-food sector has been put to the test and showed its resilience in the face of a world at a standstill by continuing to supply European citizens with quality products. Food self-sufficiency has been put back at the center of the debate and the Covid pandemic has demonstrated how much it should be at the center of our concerns, for safety reasons but also for reasons of competitiveness, health and environment.

Everything today pushes us to continue our efforts to maintain a strong and resilient European food system.

It was the original role of the CAP to feed a continent that was drained of blood after the war. It met its very first objective by allowing us to be self-sufficient in terms of food, but it even went far beyond this simple expectation in terms of economic performance and above all by guaranteeing European consumers a varied and very high quality diet at an affordable price. The importance of our CAP is also reflected by its place in the European budget, a place that is now threatened in view of the cuts envisaged in the next MFF, despite the many fundamental missions requested from European agriculture, in particular the new environmental expectations linked to the Green deal and its Farm to Fork strategy.

The European Parliament is fully committed to the reform of the CAP to ensure that it responds to present and future challenges. However, we must keep in mind that our CAP is nothing without our farmers, it must accompany them without representing a punitive policy or too heavy with constraints.

In the same way the strategies related to Green deal, Farm to Fork and biodiversity should not only represent an additional burden for our agri-food system. Funding and the necessary tools must be available to accompany the sectors towards greater sustainability.

Our producers and industries are key players in the European Union’s transition to a climate-neutral economy, but they will need to be given the means to do so and not lose sight of our goal of food self-sufficiency. In short, we must at all costs avoid putting our entire production system, sometimes already in difficulty, in the face of the economic crisis, climate change or international sanctions. Otherwise, we risk jeopardizing our food autonomy and forcing ourselves to import products that do not always respect our standards and values and at the price of a sometimes high carbon footprint.

This is why we must also be consistent, particularly in the development of our trade policy. Our agriculture and agri-food production, which is of high quality and more sustainable than in the rest of the world, is therefore competitive and we must ensure that it remains so, also bearing in mind that our system must be able to produce for all and be able to offer products at affordable costs.

European agriculture must remain within the reach of all purses even if it gains in quality and sustainability over the years. We must remain productive and stay on course.

This is also why the Commission has at the same time taken up the subject of food waste, which we must act on at all costs.

The other problem in Europe is the demographic crisis, particularly in rural areas, but also the crisis of vocations in agricultural professions. We must at all costs revalorize the sector, allow our producers to make a living from their work and ensure that we fight against agribashing, which is unfortunately running rampant in Europe. Our producers are key players in the fight for the climate, they make a lot of effort and we must at all costs accompany them to preserve our know-how, our gastronomic heritage and our European food autonomy.