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The Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies were published by the European Commission on 20th May.

The two strategies set out a number of targets and actions which are set to change many of the fundamental aspects of our food system and will heavily influence the dairy industry, from our on-farm production through to processing, trade and consumer commination for the remainder of the decade. The strategies are central initiatives of the European Green Deal, the EU’s strategic growth plan which is focused on transforming the EU’s economy into a circular and carbon neutral one by 2050.

On farm Targets:

  • EU wide targets of a 50% reduction in pesticides, 20% reduction in artificial fertilisers, 50% reduction in antibiotic use in livestock and increase in agricultural land under organic production from 8-25% is to be achieve by 2030.
  • Additionally, under the biodiversity strategy, 10% of agricultural land is to be under non-productive and landscape features by 2030.  
  • It aims to increase the use of innovate feed additives (such as seaweed) in order to reduce livestock emissions and decrease dependency on soya grown on deforested land by increasing EU-own production of plant proteins.
  • There will be a revision of animal welfare legislation (in 2023) with a particular focus on animal transport to ensure a higher degree of protection.
  • Farmer will be paid to sequester carbon, potentially under CAP eco-schemes in the next policy or through private initiatives, whereby companies emitting carbon in other sectors could pay farmers to sequester it, thereby offsetting them. The Commission is to publish its robust and transparent regulatory framework for certifying carbon removals in 2021 to allow for this.

General Land Management Targets:

  • 30% of EU land and Sea is to be categorised as a Protected Area (i.e. under Natura 2000 of other protected zone), and managed under clear objectives and targets with a view to maximise nature conservation by 2030. No species or habitat within a protected area is to show a deteriorating trend. In addition, at least 33% of this land is to be strictly protected, i.e. without any economic activity allowed.
  • A” significant area” of degraded and carbon-rich eco-systems are to be restored. An EU Nature Restoration Plan’ with legally binding restoration targets is to be introduced in 2021.
  • In 2021, the Commission will also table the new EU Forest Strategy including a roadmap for planting at least 3 billion additional trees by 2030, with planting to happen in urban, peri-urban areas and within agroecosystems.

Food Chain Businesses

  • An EU Code of Conduct for responsible food chain business and monitoring framework will be developed in 2021. This will require businesses to make commitments on reducing environmental footprint, adopting marketing strategies, food pricing and packaging.
  • A proposal to revise EU marketing standards for agricultural products to ensure “the uptake & supply of sustainable products,” is to be brought forwards in 2021/2022, while initiatives will also be launched to stimulate the reformulation of processed food, including the setting of maximum levels for certain nutrients (2021) and establish nutrient profiles to restrict promotion of food high in salt, sugars &/or fats  (2022).
  • Packaging legislation will be altered to encourage a switch to reusable and biodegradable materials which will also extend the shelf life of food.  
  • There is a big focus in the strategy on the promotion of short supply chains with a focus on local sourcing and consumption

Consumer Information Targets

  • Mandatory and harmonised nutritional labelling is to be introduced in a proposal in 2022
  • Mandatory origin labelling is to be introduced in a proposal in 2022 for “certain” products to “enable consumers to identify locally-produced food & stimulate short supply chains to the benefit of farmers”; dairy and milk and meat ingredients products are the main focus of this.
  • Both an EU wide harmonised sustainability label (for 2024) and animal welfare label for agri-food products is proposed
  • With a target of reducing food waste by half at retail & consumer levels, date marking rules setting “use by” and “best before” dates will be revised (2022)
  • A review of the EU promotion programme for agri-food products is in the pipeline “with a view to enhancing its contribution to sustainable production & consumption” (Q4, 2020), as is an overhaul of the EU school scheme legal framework “to refocus the scheme on healthy & sustainable food” (by 2023) and a revision of public procurement policy to promote consumption of organic production (by 2021).

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive