EU agriculture ministers’ informal meeting on new technologies in agriculture as response to climate change
The first two days of the meeting were dedicated by the EU Ministers to field-inspection of good practices in agriculture and viniculture. Inter alia, they visited the Cordoba University and inspected trial fields and their unique Olive Tree Bank that is keeping the diverse olive tree varieties. They familiarised themselves with field trials, which are important for the future of farming. These take account of digitalisation in the sector, the sustainability aspect of farming, and pursue the economics. Later, the Ministers with their respective Delegations inspected the cultivation of traditional wines in this region.
Today, on the last informal meeting day, the EU Ministers discussed new technologies for a more sustainable and resilient agriculture. The Spanish Presidency namely identified the incentives for new technologies as one of the work programme priorities, whereby the EU may remain at the forefront in all the spheres of technology and innovations linked to the agrifood sector, including the new genomic techniques.
Slovenia welcomes the discussion on the topic of new technologies to stimulate the transition to a more sustainable and productive model, adapted to the challenges of climate change. “To facilitate the use of all these new technologies on a wider scale, the limiting factors shall need to be addressed, taking into account the differing points of departure of agricultural producers and the different realities of agricultural sectors in the Member States. The upgrading of educational systems and strengthened transposition of innovation into practice are of crucial importance. In so doing, we need to place farmers and their needs at the forefront”, pointed out Minister Šinko in discussion. The Minister highlighted the urgency of developing the strategic development-innovative partnerships in the food sector, of increasing the focus on primary production, ensuring a more appropriate payment for sustainably produced products, and of strengthening the local and short supply chains.
“The potential of these new techniques is high and can significantly contribute to sustainable agrifood systems. It is of key importance for Slovenia that the precautionary principle is taken into account, by fully addressing the benefits as well as the possible risks that new technologies may bring along with them. In addition, we need harmonised rules and measures to prevent impacts of new techniques on public health, animal health and the environment, and on other methods of agricultural production. In the long term, the sustainable production and food safety, and the existence of conventional and organic farming shall not be placed in jeopardy. Furthermore, the future EU legislation shall ensure the transparency, by way of mandatory identification of presence of such products, and the traceability of such products, to maintain the basic rights of consumers of being fully informed and of making informed choices”, added Minister Šinko in discussion.
In the margins of the EU Agriculture Ministers’ meeting, Minister Šinko and Delegation met with the EU Agriculture Commissioner, Mr Janusz Wojciechowski.
At the meeting, convened on Slovenia’s incentive, Minister Šinko informed the Commissioner on the state of play in Slovenian agricultural sector in the aftermath of the most recent floods. The Minister pointed out that Slovenia immediately after the flood began collecting data on the damages incurred. Data show the extremely high damages on facilities, machinery, and on the stock of production materials, animal feed, seed materials, at raw milk delivery, and at other crops. The entire affected areas are facing problems, with up to 3000 agricultural holdings having suffered damage. Agricultural land has suffered damage due to flooding, deposits of detrital material, the erosion of material, and due to numerous landslides in these areas. These areas include the less-favoured areas for farming, and small farms, which aggravates their situation even more. Many agricultural holdings have lost all their facilities, machinery, houses and land plots, and these need to be provided most help as first and foremost. To remedy damages to the affected agricultural areas, and to retain agricultural activities in these areas, the Minister asked for assistance also the Directorate General for Agriculture.
The Commissioner followed the Minister’s report with great attention, affirmed his comprehension of the difficulties that Slovenia had found itself in, and expressed his sympathies to all those affected in the devastating disaster. He reaffirmed that the Commission would cooperate in disaster relief through tools within its competence: by amending the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme, the 2023-2027 Strategy Plan, and by exceptional aid from the Reserve for crises in the agricultural sector. Recognising the urgent need for prompt action, the Commissioner gave an assurance of a possibly rapid responsiveness of the Commission, and of flexibility in confirming amendments to programme documents.
Slovenia will report on damages incurred by flooding also at the next EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council (18 September 2023), under AOB of the Agenda.