EUROPE
Germany’s core farm projects still in planning phase

The start of 2023 saw the EU’s new agricultural policy come into force in Germany, alongside new animal husbandry rules. However, some of German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir’s core projects remain in the planning phase.

A year after Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s social democratic SPD, the Greens, and the liberal FDP took office, an important hurdle was cleared for Green Agriculture Minister Özdemir as the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) entered into force on Sunday (1 January).

After long negotiations between federal and state governments, and the European Commission, the country’s national strategic plan for implementing the new CAP was submitted to Brussels in the autumn of 2022 and approved by the Commission at the end of November.

Particularly controversial was the question of whether environmental and climate protection rules should be temporarily relaxed in light of the Ukraine war’s impact on agricultural markets. For this year, certain exemptions from the requirements on so-called set-aside areas and crop rotation now apply in Germany.

At the same time, the German government wants to keep a close eye on the implementation of the CAP and has announced a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of the reform.

Aside from the CAP, several changes in the law on animal husbandry also came into force at the turn of the year.

Reducing livestock antibiotics

Amongst the new regulations are amendments to the Veterinary Medicinal Products Act, intended to implement requirements from Brussels on the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry and which was finally passed by the Bundesrat – the body that represents Germany’s 16 federal states – in mid-December.

Resistant germs, which develop as a result of the excessive use of antibiotics in humans and animals, were identified by the responsible EU authority last year as one of the three greatest health risks for the EU bloc.

As such, according to the German agriculture ministry, amendments to the law are intended to contribute to “better recording and permanently reducing the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry”.

One of the amendments includes reducing antibiotic use by 50% – a first target of that kind that is also in line with the ambitions laid out in the EU’s flagship Farm to Fork strategy.

Regarding animal husbandry, the amendment first proposed by former Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner came into force on 1 January, further restricting the transport of live calves. Following a transition period of one year, calves can only be transported within Germany if they are at least 28 days old, and not 14 as is currently permitted.

The step-by-step approach

However, as the new year begins, many of Özdemir’s plans are still in the planning phase or going through the legislative process.

This is the case for one of his government’s core promises: Mandatory animal husbandry labelling.

Though Özdemir presented a bill on the matter last year and it was debated for the first time by the Bundesrat and the Bundestag in November and December respectively, the label will first apply to unprocessed pork, and then gradually to other product groups.

“If we wanted to do everything at once, nothing would happen,” Özdemir argued during the Bundestag debate.

The opposition, however, is not convinced. Conservative MP Albert Stegemann, for example, called the plans “as full of holes as a Swiss cheese” and “completely unsuitable”.

The Agriculture Ministry is also planning a similar, step-by-step approach when it comes to providing financial support to increase animal welfare in livestock farming.

Support will initially go only to pig farming, specifically for sows, weaner piglets, and fattening pigs.

While farmers and animal welfare activists agree that converting stables to better respect animal welfare requires long-term financial support due to the high investment costs, the government had to come to a compromise before agreeing on financing.

One billion euros as “start-up funding” to support farmers in the event of additional costs over up to ten years, which are provided for in the key issues paper, now represents a compromise between Özdemir and the FDP, which had insisted on budgetary discipline.

More humane husbandry and nutrition strategy

In December, the ministry presented, for the first time, a roadmap to minimum animal welfare standards for fattening turkeys – something both German and EU law does not yet regulate on.

The Farm Animal Husbandry Ordinance is to be amended “in the near future” to ensure turkeys are kept in a more humane manner, the paper laying out the key points stated.

Another project still in the “roadmap” stage is a national nutrition strategy that is meant to promote healthier and more sustainable diets and make them possible for all income levels.

A roadmap for this, presented shortly before Christmas by Özdemir, are to be elaborated on in a broad social process by the end of 2023.

However, this could prove to be tricky since particularly sensitive questions relating to financing, in particular, have so far been left out of the strategy.

The debate on whether targets like meat or sugar consumption reduction should also be achieved through binding regulatory requirements is also likely to be controversial.

Source: Euractiv.com

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