Vilsack counters EU ‘farm to fork’ strategy; EU groups raise productivity concerns
Speaking to reporters by telephone from the G-20 Agricultural Ministerial Meeting in Florence, Italy, on Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is trying to encourage other countries to join the United States in a Coalition for Productivity Growth to “counter” the European Union’s Farm to Fork sustainability strategy.
Vilsack said there are fears that the EU’s strategy could lead to a reduction in agricultural productivity, particularly if countries beyond EU member states adopt it.
The future of agricultural policy is important right now because the United Nations will hold a virtual Food Systems Summit on September 23 in New York, plus agriculture is expected to be an important topic at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. That meeting, the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, also known as COP26, is scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12.
Vilsack said he has already spoken to Brazilian officials about joining the coalition and that he believes Canada, Mexico and South American countries as well as others may be interested in joining. But Vilsack said the United States has only begun “marketing” the idea to other countries.
In a speech at the conference, Vilsack spoke in favor of a market-oriented approach that allows for the introduction of new technologies. When speaking to reporters, Vilsack did not mention genetic modification, which is highly controversial, but said he was promoting gene editing, research and development, precision agriculture and other climate smart agricultural practices as a way to get to zero carbon emissions. He also said he has spoken in opposition to trade barriers that aren’t science-based.
When he held a bilateral meeting with EU officials in Florence, Vilsack said he did not bring up this coalition, but talked about improving the US-EU relationship after the difficulties between President Trump and EU leaders.
He said while the United States shares with the EU the goal of achieving agricultural sustainability, “there are multiple ways to get to that goal.”
Vilsack said that in promoting ideas, the EU has the advantage of its members countries “working together.”
But on Thursday, COPA and COGECA, the European coalitions of farm and co-op groups, said that technical studies are showing that the Farm to Fork strategy will lead to a reduction in productivity and that “the European Commission or the European Parliament cannot ignore those publications and the social, economic, and environmental consequences they imply.”
“We cannot accept a counterproductive target-oriented approach of F2F. We were struck this week by the fact that agriculture was not even mentioned in the state of the union speech. The commission must open a real dialogue with its farming community, work on concrete solutions if we expect to find collective answers, on fundamental issues of carbon leakage, food sovereignty and the fair distribution of efforts.”
Leaders from other countries are pleased the United States is “re-engaging” on the world stage, Vilsack said.
He also said he was pleased that speakers from other countries have acknowledged that renewable energy will play an important role in both addressing climate change and increasing farm incomes.
There are “multiple ways” for the United States to play a role at the UN Food Systems Summit, Vilsack said. He noted that the United States is already part of a coalition to encourage countries to develop school meals programs and promote better water quality and reducing food waste as well as increasing productivity.
Nothing will come out of the summit to make it difficult to sell U.S. products, Vilsack said.
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