ARC NEWSFLASH October/November 2013

 

Dear friends and supporters,Shirin and Oliver here. We’re nicely settled in now into our roles, and really enjoying the challenge of keeping everyone up to date on European farming and food policy issues. The¬†Arc2020 website¬†is, hopefully, a little easier to use and more useful for you. We’ve added big buttons which feature our CAP and Rural Development¬†Toolkit, agricultural¬†campaigns¬†across Europe,¬†and our¬†2000m¬≤¬†project, as well as a¬†live twitter feed. Why not pop over and have a¬†fresh look? ¬†We look forward to hearing what you think.

There’s a lot going on in agri-food politics and policy right now. Member States have been having consultations on the CAP reform process, which means they are closer to making important decisions that will effect farming, food and the environment across Europe. We’ll keep updating our toolkit and site as more information comes to hand: seehere¬†for the latest from Spain,¬†here¬†for the latest from Germany, and see also what’s happening in¬†Scotland¬†and¬†Ireland.

The whole area of land grab to the east of the Continent has been a very hot topic on ARC2020 in recent weeks. Bulgaria has issued a moratorium on land sales to foreign nationals, while numerous countries, as our correspondent Attila  Szocs points out, are battling on this front too.

Global trade deals have also been exercising people concerned about good farming, food and environmental standards. These deals are called the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada and, separately, the still in process and still secretive¬†Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership¬†(TTIP) with the US. A standards race to the bottom may ensue, which in turn has the potential to unravel whatever progress has been made on CAP reform and on many positive European policy measures. So¬†campaigns must be mounted to better inform people of what exactly is going on with these deals. We’ll play our part here at ARC2020, so keep interacting with us! See our spotlight issue in this newsletter for more on what’s happening, and what we are working on.

Shirin Kiamanesh –¬†communication@arc2020.eu
Communications Manager
Oliver Moore –¬†oliver@arc2020.eu

EU Correspondent

Latest from Brussels: EU US trade talks  Рthe TTIPWhile we in ARC2020 work towards better farming, food and environment policy and practice in Europe, it is also the case that some of our standards are higher than those in other parts of the world. This is in part thanks to the hard work of citizens, advocacy groups and others, who have been tirelessly campaigning on these issues.

There are some serious threats on the horizon however, in the form of international trade deals. Both the Commission and the Parliament are involved in this. Chief among these is what is called the TTIP, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This is a secretive set of talks between the EU Commission and US, building towards a potential agreement on trade issues. Initiated in July of this year, the three main prongs of the talks are market access, regulatory issues and non-tariff barriers and finally trade rules. Touted as potentially building economies, ending recession and pulling power back from the BRIC countries, these hopes are, according to Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), flimsy at best.

Broadly speaking, anyone involved in agri-food, even the most established representatives of business-as-usual, must be concerned about the TTIP. There are two main reasons for justifiable concern. Any or many aspects of agri-food could be sacrifice as¬†concessions¬†in trade talks for broader, more economically relevant EU or US sectors such financial services. But also, food produced in Europe, with higher standards on GM, bleaching of chicken, hormones in beef, animal (even ruminant) confinement, pesticide use and even organic farming, will have to compete with US products with those lower standards. This is also a¬†concern¬†on the other side of the Ocean, where fears exist over watering down stricter banking¬†regulations, introduced since the Lehman Brothers collapse. The US Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy¬†states¬†that “upward harmonization of financial and commodity market regulation could be derailed by proposals to include them in the TTIP financial services chapter.” They also warn that even civic, locally-orientated or environmentally sounder public procurement policies on both sides of the¬†Atlantic¬†could be under threat.

TTIP continuedSo a real concern is that weaker standards for agri-food will emerge through regulatory¬†harmonization, whereby the lowest in either the US or EU becomes the new norm. As CEO¬†point out:¬†“the real impetus behind a deal comes from¬†major EU and US corporations that have joined forces to remove as many labour, health and environmental standards as possible in a devastating race to the bottom.”

To¬†achieve¬†this, what’s called ISDR – Investor State Dispute Resolution – may be employed. While these already exist, they may be used more frequently and with renewed vigor by the multinational Corporate sector, if there are provisions made for ISDR’s in the final agreement. ISDRs allow corporations to sue governments if governments bring in new, stronger laws in areas like labour or the environment. This is¬†supposedly¬†justified¬†because¬†said corporations will loose out on potential profits if stricter laws emerge through the democratic process.

As featured on ARC2020, a recent¬†report¬†for the European Parliament draws attention to serious concerns over the TTIP. This report, by¬†Ecologic Institute and BIO IS, draws attention to the risk of both regulatory harmonization and the use of ISDR’s. For regulatory harmonization, in many cases the US has voluntary guidelines where the EU has mandatory rules: harmonization could mean, for the EU, reverting from mandatory to voluntary in some areas including agri-food, as part of the overall trade deal. The report also points to examples of ISDRs being used successfully by corporations to offset their potentially lost profit in areas such as nuclear power, landfill and fuel additives. The European¬†Parliament, the report concludes, will have to “pay very close attention to the precise wording of¬†provisions regarding the environment, food safety, and investment set¬†out in the final text to ensure that both parties are able to maintain the¬†environmental and consumer protection standards they deem¬†appropriate, as provided for in the European Commission‚Äôs negotiating¬†mandate.”

While the TTIP is no doubt a cause for concern, it is also the case that there is significant potential to build an incredibly wide platform to campaign on issues related to this.

Spotlight Issue: CAP reform and EIP
Across Europe, individual Member States (MS) are working out how to implement the new CAP agreement. Lots of options have been left to the individual MS to implement aspects of the CAP. One of the most potentially positive areas is the EIP, or what is called the European Innovation Partnership. ARC2020 have been involved in the process from the start. Payments from the EU are higher for organic farming and other agro-ecological approaches, so it costs MS less to go the organic route. Core to the EIP is Operational Groups made up of interested actors from research, farming, business and other areas. The idea is for these EIP operational groups to draw up a plan for an innovative project, implement it through measures financed through the rural development programmes, and disseminate the results of the project.
As stated in the EIP briefing document we wrote with IFOAM EU and TP Organics, the EIP shall:

(a) promote a resource efficient, economically viable, productive, competitive, low emission, climate friendly and resilient agricultural and forestry sector, progressing towards agro-ecological production systems and working in harmony with the essential natural resources on which farming and forestry depend;
(b) help deliver a steady and sustainable supply of food, feed and biomaterials, both existing and new ones;
(c) improve processes to preserve the environment, adapt to climate change and mitigate it;
(d) build bridges between cutting-edge research knowledge and technology and farmers, forest managers, rural communities, businesses, NGOs and advisory services.

Upcoming Public and Policy Events

13.11.2013
European Rural Parliament
Brussels

13.11.2013
National Soil Symposium
London

22.11.2013
Eurogusto
Tours

25.11.2013
International Danube Soya Congress
Augsburg

27.11.2013
Conference of the Committee of the Regions
Brussels

27.11.2013
Seminar РThe Value Chain Approach: Concepts, Benefits and Risks for Family Farming
Brussels

27.11.2013
Conference on Family Farming
Brussels

06.12.2013
True Cost Accounting in Food and Farming
London

Find all events listed on ARC2020 here

2000m² Website Launched! We have just launched the website for our newest project: http://www.2000m2.eu

The project is based on the idea that if we divided the global surface of arable land by the world’s population, we would each get a 2000m¬≤ field, and raises questions to get us all thinking about how we can best use ‘our field’. Take a look at theforum¬†to join the conversation or share your thoughts.

Thanks to help from Meine Landwirschaft, we have already launched a German version of the site, http://www.2000m2.eu/de.  We are looking for partners in other countries, so please get in touch if you are interested or have someone to recommend!

We’ve also put together an 8-page flyer that explains the project’s concept and answers some of the main questions. You can see what it looks like in the photo above.¬†If you would like to order copies please send an email to¬†carla@2000m2.eu.