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Agrifood Brief: Fantasy CAP

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With many of you back at work and holidays already feeling like a distant memory, the comeback from after summer always hits differently than the actual beginning of a new year.

Maybe it’s a throwback to school that we just can’t shake, but perhaps it’s also because there’s the sense of a new season starting – weather-wise (certainly in Belgium), for the EU bubble, and for football.

We think it’s fair to say that our Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a bit like football; it throws around millions of euros, it inspires strong emotions in people, and it feels like your team never wins.

And this period also means one thing for many football lovers: It is the time of the year for fantasy football.

For those who are not that familiar with this concept, fantasy football is a popular game where participants simulate being general managers of ‘virtual’ football teams.

We like the idea of transposing the format to our beloved EU agricultural policy, and although we can’t propose a real game where you can pick agricultural players such as the Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski or Parliament’s agriculture committee Chair Norbert Lins, we can still collect predictions on what’s going to happen over this next season.

And so, to soften la rentr?e, we’re happy to introduce you to the first EU bubble fantasy prediction game: the fantasy CAP.

Everyone is welcome to join – and we promise replies are off-record.

The game is simple: It’s a quiz with 10 questions about what’s next in the EU agricultural policy agenda. For every right answer, you score points; whoever scores the most points wins.

What do you win? Well, for sure, eternal glory, our respect and, just maybe, enough attention to get a post as an external agriculture policy consultant for some MEPs or in the next Commission (we can’t guarantee this, but you never know).

But, more tangibly, you also have the chance to get your hands on some nifty EURACTIV merchandise and some drinks on the EURACTIV agrifood team.

The last date for submissions is the next agrifood brief on 8 September, and the results will be disclosed at the last plenary session of the mandate (22-25 April 2024, according to the Parliament’s calendar).

As a helping hand for your predictions, check out our look ahead of what’s on the menu over the next few months and our coverage for a comprehensive overview of where we’re at on the biggest issues in agriculture right now.

So what are you waiting for? Submit your predictions HERE, play nice and…good luck!

Subscribe to EURACTIV’s Agrifood Brief, where you’ll find the latest roundup of news covering agriculture and food from across Europe. The Agrifood Brief is brought to you by EURACTIV’s Agrifood Team – Gerardo Fortuna (@gerardofortuna), Natasha Foote (@NatashaFoote), and Julia Dahm (@dahm_julia)

Agri-bites you need to know

As Brussels is slowly preparing to reawaken from its summer slumber, let’s have a look at what we missed in August and what’s coming up on our plates over the next few months.

The fun to come

With the European elections around the corner, it is crunch time for determining the legacy of the Green Deal for agriculture and food policy as lawmakers scramble to rescue the climate-protecting credentials of this legislative mandate.

What does all this mean for the current Spanish presidency of the EU Council, and what can we expect after the summer break? Don’t miss EURACTIV’s roundup of the fun to come over the next semester.

Timmermans exit

Among those news that were, perhaps, too big to miss, even from the beach or a mountaintop, is the exit of Green Deal heavyweight Frans Timmermans from the Commission.

As Commission Vice-President, Timmermans – who gave to EURACTIV what might have been his last interview as an EU official – was one of the number one advocates for Green Deal files, including ones affecting agriculture, most recently the much-fought-over Nature Restoration Law.

While Timmermans’ duties as Commission vice-president and Green Deal chief were, for the moment, taken over by fellow Vice-President Maro? ?ef?ovi?, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has nominated Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra as the new Commissioner from the Netherlands.

After being criticised for a lack of climate credentials, Hoekstra has made a point of stressing his commitment to the Green Deal.

Meanwhile, Santa Claus lookalike Timmermans will now be running for prime minister in his home country, the Netherlands, but with the farmers’ party BBB soaring high in the polls, it is unlikely he will be able to escape the agri-policy world completely.


We’re only just back from holiday, and already cracks have appeared in the European Commission after it was forced to distance itself from its own Agriculture commissioner who went rogue in front of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee this week.

The current temporary ban on select Ukrainian agricultural goods – wheat, maise, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds – was put in place to appease frontline countries who unilaterally imposed their own trade restrictions back in April after an influx of Ukrainian agricultural products put pressure on their farmers.

After a first prolongation in June, the ban is set to expire on 15 September, but its further renewal has proved a bone of contention for the Commission, which is stuck between solidarity for Ukraine on the one hand and support for the EU frontline countries – Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia – on the other.

However, the delicacy of the situation has not stopped EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, who joined the EU executive from Poland, from putting forward his personal take on the path the EU executive should take.

“If this ban will be not prolonged, we will have the same problem [as] before with the frontline member states,” the Commissioner told lawmakers, adding that this proposal was “already on the table”.

However, the European Commission was quick to distance itself from the comments, insisting that there is currently “no such proposal on the table” and that Wojciechowski’s comments were not something based on “any sort of official contribution from the Commission”.

‘State aid’-like support for grain transit companies?

But that’s not all. Commissioner Wojciechowski also went a step further and proposed a kind of system of financial support for companies helping to export agricultural products from Ukraine.

While the details remain hazy for the moment, this would be a ‘state aid-like’ subsidy system, according to the Commissioner, who reasoned that an appropriate figure would be between EUR20 and EUR40 per tonne of grain.

“EUR600 million can help to export 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain, I think this will be [a] very good solution to solve this problem, which is very, very difficult,” he told journalists on the sidelines of the meeting.

However, the suggestion has raised eyebrows among both MEPs and stakeholders, including think tank Farm Europe, who released a statement outlining their concerns that such a move would “equal an export subsidy which would directly compete with local production in third countries,” thus making it legally inconsistent.

Glyphosate latest

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) came back for round two in front of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee this week to explain their conclusions about the contentious herbicide glyphosate ahead of its potential re-approval in the EU.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide as an active substance in plant protection. The question of renewal has been highly controversial as views diverge over glyphosate’s impact on health and the environment.

Currently, glyphosate is approved in the EU until 15 December 2023, after the European Commission temporarily extended the approval for one year to allow more time for the decision process – including the EFSA study, which the agency had to push back due to the “unprecedented” amount of input to consider.

Things got heated as MEPs questioned the agency’s conclusions – which found no critical cause for concern but flagged a number of data gaps – forcing EFSA’s executive director Bernhard Url to defend himself and explain the role that EFSA is supposed to play in the debate on glyphosate.

“We are not giving a white paper on glyphosate. We are not saying glyphosate has to be re-approved or re-authorised,” he said, pointing out that this decision rests with ‘risk managers’.

“All the rest is risk management policy decisions where the society has to decide whether glyphosate should be used in European agriculture or not. This is not a scientific decision, this is a political decision,” he stressed.

Extreme weather support

Meanwhile, as many might have experienced first-hand, depending on your holiday destination, Europe continues to be plagued by extreme weather events.

While Austria and Slovenia struggled with severe floods that – apart from the human cost – also led to high damages in agricultural production, many other regions still struggle with drought, according to new data from the European Drought Observatory.

Against this backdrop, the European Commission took measures earlier this month to support the fruit, vegetable, and wine sectors – sectors where production has been “dramatically damaged” due to the “adverse weather events” this spring, according to the EU executive.

A “flexibility package” now allows farmers and national governments more flexibilities when it comes to EU programmes for the sector, including within the Common Market Organisation – the traditional farmers’ safety net in case of market crises.

Veggie burger beef

Just in time for the summer “silly season,” an evergreen topic of debate made its way back on the EU agenda: Should plant-based alternatives to animal products like milk or meat be allowed to bear the name of the “original” product?

Currently, EU law is hazy on whether, say, a veggie burger can even be called a burger or whether you should order your cappuccino with “almond milk” or just “almond drink.”

Clarity is now set to arrive in the form of a forthcoming ruling by the European Court of Justice, according to meat alternative campaigners: “This case will determine once and for all whether the EU will take a harmonised approach to plant-based food labels,” commented Elena Walden, senior policy manager at the Good Food Institute Europe.

Other Agrifood nibbles

Commission asked to bailout Italy’s shellfish farmers affected by blue crab. The EU executive has been asked to play its part in coping with the blue crab invasion in the Mediterranean and provide additional funds for aquaculture producers affected by the predatory species in a parliamentary question seen by EURACTIV. Read more.

EU lawmakers insist on monetisation of carbon farming. The European Parliament’s agriculture committee proposed to go beyond the scope of the recently unveiled EU framework for certifying carbon sinks in farming by providing for the remuneration and trading of negative emission certificates. Find out more.

Shellfish production control does not always meet EU requirements, report finds. Some national control systems for shellfish producers are falling short of EU standards and risking consumer health, a new European Commission report has found–more info.

CAP corner

The European Commission is not planning to allow farmers further exemptions on environmental measures for another year to boost cereal production, according to EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, despite mounting pressure to do so from member states. Learn more.

In case you missed it. Check out our Special Capitals edition of the EURACTIV agrifood brief on nature-based solutions – how many farmers across 10 have taken these up, and what impact has this had? What barriers remain to the uptake of nature-based solutions?

Agrifood news from the CAPitals


Slovak agri-chief demands change in ‘thistle instead of wheat’ scheme. Agriculture Minister Jozef B?re? will ask the European Commission to change rules on buffer strips, which separate single-crop fields to protect soil and promote biodiversity. However, a summer ban on landscaping has left them overgrown with allergens and invasive plant species. Find out more.


Far-right leader slams country’s grain transit deal with Kyiv. Romanian far-right leader George Simion has criticised the deal Romania struck with Ukraine to double the volume of grain transit from Ukraine, claiming the decision was either an act of treason or plain stupid. Read more.


Czech minister champions gene-editing for EU’s food and climate future. Czech Agriculture Minister Marek V?born? believes new gene editing techniques could help the European Union cope with climate change and the challenge of feeding its population. Read more.


German farmers hit by climate change impacts, new data shows. Farmers and campaigners are warning of the impacts climate change has on agricultural production in Germany amid mixed results for this year’s harvest due to adverse weather events. Read the full story.


Dutch minister rejects provinces’ funding requests for nitrogen reduction. Nitrogen Minister Christianne Van der Wal (VVD/Renew) rejected the Dutch provinces’ funding requests for nitrogen reduction on Monday, stating that their plans greatly exceed the government’s available funds. Find out more.


Albanian export farmers face bankruptcy due to strength of lek against euro. Some 30% of Albanian agricultural exporters went bankrupt in 2023 due to high losses caused by the significant strengthening of the lek against the euro over the last months, further exacerbating a cost crisis already faced by businesses in this area. Read more.


French sheep farmers ask EU to address rising bear attacks. France’s sheep farmers association is calling on the EU to improve its assessment of bear populations and change their protected status in view of a recent resurgence in bear attacks in the country. Read the full story.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

Read more with EURACTIV



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