Maintain Family Farming for a Competitive and Sustainable Sector13 September 2013
EU - Promotion of cooperation, strengthening of bargaining power, application of innovations and scientific research – the main measures for strengthening the family farming model, were discussed by EU Agriculture Ministers, representatives of the European Commission and Parliament and non-governmental institutions during the informal meeting held on September 8-10 in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“Family farming is one of the most common models of farming in all EU Member States. Family farms play an important role in meeting the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy and ensuring the sustainable EU agriculture sector. Our aim is to have a modern, competitive and environmentally friendly family farm, to attract the young people to farming, to make the rural communities prosperous,“ the Minister of Agriculture Vigilijus Jukna pointed out during the meeting.
Most of the ministers agreed that family farming is one of the most important farming models with a significant input in achieving food security, delivering public goods, maintaining the viability of rural areas, ensuring high-quality production supply.
The ministers also noted the importance of the short food supply chains and local food systems since the focus in these chains is on the high-quality of production, its freshness, flavour, safety.
A majority of the ministers noted that the number of farms has been declining over the last decades in most EU countries – in a highly competitive and global business environment family farms often encounter market difficulties, such as limited access to market, decreasing farmers’ share of value added in the food chain, limited bargaining power, etc.
“As it has been pointed out during the discussion, in achieving the efficiency of family farming it is vital to maintain and enhance the position of the farms in the food supply chain, to promote cooperation and to strengthen farmers' bargaining power, possibly at shortening the supply chain and focusing on direct sales. It is very important that researchers, farmers, advisors and other players of the sector should cooperate more actively to accelerate the speed of technological transfer from science to farming practice and the farmers themselves constantly would be trained and advised,“ noted professor Jukna.
The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, also expressed his strong support for the maintenance of family farms, which he described as “the heartbeat of EU farming structures”.
However, Minister Coveney cautioned that, while maintaining family farms was consistent with the reform of the CAP, it did not mean the maintenance of the status quo. Acknowledging that there would have to be changes in farm structures and a greater focus on competitiveness, sustainability and innovation, the Minister said that the challenge would be to “bring family farms along with the changes needed.”
Minister Coveney also emphasised the need for more generational change in farming throughout Europe and pointed to some of the measures included in the reformed CAP which would contribute positively in this regard. Positively favouring younger farmers was one of his priorities during the CAP Reform negotiations.
The EU Agriculture Ministers‘ thoughts about the family farming prospects provided a solid foundation for the further discussions run by EU institutions, society and farmers‘ organisations on this important for EU Member States issue and confirmed the family farms to be the backbone of rural society and economy, the basis of a competitive, sustainable, market-oriented European model of agriculture sector, which meets the society‘s expectations.
The discussion on family farming, its problems and prospects proposed by the Lithuanian Presidency was very timely as the General Assembly of the United Nations has declared 2014 the International year of family farming and the European Commission has launched the consultation on the role of family farming with a view to identifying key challenges and priorities for the future.
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