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EU ministers on rural areas in relation to the future CAP

Vienna, Schloss Hof, 24–25 September 2018 – The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Aleksandra Pivec, attended the informal EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting. At the meeting the ministers highlighted the role of agriculture in maintaining vital rural areas and producing high-quality food. The Austrian Presidency put the contribution of the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to rural development at the centre of the discussion. During the debate Ms Pivec emphasised that pressures borne by farmers in the EU are diverse and substantial: "On the one hand there are pressures caused by high environmental requirements, sustainable production standards and climate change, and on the other there are market globalisation and liberalisation and consumer requirements in a strongly competitive environment." According to Ms Pivec the future CAP can only ensure this if it remains a strong common policy for which we will be able to ensure funds at least at the level of the current period. Ministers also considered the information on the situation regarding the recent occurrence of African swine fever in Belgium. Yesterday, on the first day of the informal meeting, EU Ministers visited a rural area of Austria to see examples of good practices on farms first-hand.

In the ministers' discussion, the Austrian Presidency highlighted the role of agriculture in maintaining vital rural areas and producing high-quality food. Rural areas represent more than 90% of EU territory. Their diversity shapes Europe's image and they have an important economic function and provide living space for 60% of the EU population. Furthermore, rural areas are important for the protection and conservation of the environment and nature. Compared to cities, rural areas are lagging behind in terms of GDP, employment, available infrastructure and access to services. Individual rural areas vary widely in terms of development, and one of the main objectives of development programmes is to reduce the differences between individual rural areas and ensure their sustainable economic, social and environmental development. The Austrian Presidency put the contribution of the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to rural development at the centre of today's discussion. The ministers presented their visions of the CAP's role, priorities and necessary instruments. They also expressed their views on how to better support the production of high-quality locally produced products through the CAP.

 

During the discussion, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Aleksandra Pivec, said that the promotion of comprehensive rural development is a Slovenian priority and that agriculture plays an important role in this: "Slovenia has extremely unfavourable conditions for agriculture – almost 80% of agricultural land is located in less favoured areas (LFA) and the majority of farms are very small family farms." With regard to the contribution of the future CAP, Ms Pivec emphasised that in the coming period we need a planning framework that would grant countries even more freedom to choose suitable tools in addressing their specifics: "In investments we should focus on technological modernisation, the promotion of innovation, the introduction of digital solutions, the circular economy and adaptation to climate change." She added that one of the priorities both of the future CAP and of Slovenia was the generational renewal of the sector. Agriculture should also step up its response to environmental challenges, nature protection and climate change: "Voluntary environmental and climate measures within the rural development policy are still the most suitable for this purpose." Ms Pivec believes that the CAP should not be the only policy dealing with the development of rural areas, but that it needs synergies with other EU policies.

 

With regard to improving support for high-quality locally produced products, Ms Pivec explained that one of the main challenges farmers are facing today is adaptation to changes in consumer expectations: "Consumers want good-quality, locally produced accessible food, produced in specific ways which involve higher production costs." According to Ms Pivec, support for participation in quality schemes should in future be integrated with support for setting up producer groups and organisations and support for the promotion of agricultural products and food: "The use of information technology and new market approaches would allow better revaluation of high-quality locally produced food." All this would contribute to the added value of agricultural products, which is of key importance for Slovenian agriculture, considering its size structure and operating conditions.

 

Ms Pivec concluded by emphasising the need to ensure easier access to funds for farmers, particularly by reducing and simplifying administrative requirements and simplifying procedures for obtaining funds. She highlighted that pressures borne by farmers in the EU are substantial and diverse, on the one hand due to high environmental requirements, sustainable production standards and climate change, and on the other due to market globalisation and liberalisation and consumer requirements in a strongly competitive environment.  "The future CAP can only ensure this if it remains a strong common policy for which we will be able to ensure funds at least at the level of the current period," added Ms Pivec.

 

 

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