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"Fit for 55" package from the perspective of agriculture and forestry at the focus of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council

State Secretary Aleš Irgolič has attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg. Ministers exchanged views on the "Fit for 55" package, in particular on agricultural aspects of the revision of the land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) regulation. The European Commission reported on the situation on agricultural markets in light of the war in Ukraine and presented its communication on safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems. Under AOB items, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on geographical indications for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products, while the French Presidency provided information on the health situation and work at the Council with regard to highly pathogenic avian influenza.

State Secretary Aleš Irgolič at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg

State Secretary Aleš Irgolič at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg | Author Council EU

In the morning, ministers exchanged views on the proposal for a revision of the land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) regulation, aiming to enhance the contribution of the LULUCF sector to achieving EU's overall climate ambitions by 2030. The proposal to amend the regulation sets the overall target of 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gas removals in the EU. It foresees integrated measures for the agriculture and forestry sector and the use of digital technologies in the changed monitoring. The proposal for a regulation determines the EU target of climate neutrality for 2035 in the integrated agriculture, forestry and land-use sector. The EU target for 2030 is divided among member states. The target for Slovenia is set at 146 kt of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gas removals. Slovenia cannot count on the contribution from afforestation or increased growing stock, since deforestation is predominantly used for creating agricultural land, which helps us produce local, healthy and safe food with as few transport emissions as possible. It is important for Slovenia that the proposal to amend the regulation takes into account national characteristics and restrictions and recognises the characteristics of the agricultural part of the LULUCF sector. "At the moment, it would be difficult to support the proposal, since it does not yet determine any specific measures for achieving climate neutrality by 2035. We would like to point out that there will always be emissions from agriculture in the food production process, including after 2035 and 2050. This raises the question of criteria for the AFOLU target," stressed the State Secretary.

Under AOB items, the European Commission presented to the ministers its proposal for a regulation on geographical indications for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products. State Secretary Irgolič noted: "Geographical indications are deeply rooted in the tradition, culture and geography of rural communities. They represent a special economic added value for local communities. They enable producers to achieve better market prices for their work and support the development of new jobs in rural areas in the fields of production, processing and agritourism." The proposal for a regulation harmonises, to a certain extent, the procedures for registering agricultural products, wine and spirit drinks, but it does not yet seem to simplify the procedures. The proposal uniformly regulates the control of geographical indications for agricultural products and spirit drinks, while the control of geographical indications for wine continues to be regulated separately in delegated and implementing acts. The Republic of Slovenia will examine the proposal for a regulation on geographical indications for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products in more detail.

The ministers took note of the Commission's information on market situation in light of the war in Ukraine. This discussion already began at the informal video conference of agriculture ministers in early March. The topic has been problematic since November last year due to the issues in the pigmeat market and the high energy prices. However, the crisis was further accentuated in early March with the war in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine supply 40% of wheat and other cereals and have a significant impact on food supply in Africa and the Middle East. Slovenia is following with concern the rising prices of input materials such as energy products, feed and fertilisers. The European Commission has already put forward some legislative proposals (private storage of pig meat, measures in the agricultural sector in emergency situations, derogation from some rules on direct payments in ecological focus areas), which Slovenia supports. State Secretary Irgolič highlighted, in particular, the issues in the pigmeat and milk production sectors. "The buying-in price of milk in Slovenia is among the lowest in the EU. Despite the growth in buying-in prices, input costs are not covered. Special attention should therefore be devoted to the transfer of these higher costs in the chain," he stressed.

The European Commission presented its communication on safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems. State Secretary pointed out in the discussion: "It is a complex and strategic discussion, where we need to be aware of the complementarity between different aspects of the food chain – from primary production and the economic situation of producers to the functioning of the entire chain with a resilient food-processing sector and the provision of affordable food to citizens." Slovenia supports long- and short-term activities for making EU independent as regards plant protein imports from third countries, which are crucial for the European livestock sector. "I agree in the long-term that we have to work towards enhancing the resilience of our food system, reduce the dependence of EU agriculture on raw materials from third countries and continue to pursue the targets of the Farm to Fork Strategy for a transition to more sustainable food systems." Innovative solutions in the framework of circular economy, precision agriculture and the promotion of environment and climate-friendly agricultural practices will be important in this context.

The French Presidency reported on the health situation and work at the Council with regard to highly pathogenic avian influenza. Its outbreaks in recent years have affected numerous countries in Europe and across the globe.

 

*The AFOLU sector designates agriculture, forestry and other land use. The sector is expected to be established from 2031. The ultimate objective of the new AFOLU sector will be climate neutrality by 2035.