Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development at the European Commission details the importance of investment and innovation in agriculture
Agriculture is humankind’s primary occupation – the only economic activity which can be truly said to nourish the world.
The principle of food security needs to be a top priority for policy makers. However, while the challenges of enhanced food security and reduced food waste are not new, it is opportune for all actors – as guardians of the agricultural sector – to renew our commitment to these principles, and resolve to widen and deepen our structures for cooperation.
Europe has a deep well of experience in shared agricultural governance. We have reformed our Common Agricultural Policy, which operates in the 28 member states of the EU and its 500 million citizens, to be more dynamic and market-oriented.
As a result, we have seen considerable investment and innovation flowing into agri-businesses. Our goal is to consistently and sustainably produce a high-quality product for consumers the world over.
We believe this makes sense, and that our policies will deliver food security, incentivise waste reduction, nurture the environment, but also – crucially – demonstrate that working in agriculture can be good business, particularly for younger people.
Giving farmers the freedom to participate in the global market will serve all these goals. Let me be clear: the subsidies and protectionism of another era are gone, and we must all adapt to the 21st Century accordingly, and with confidence.
Nonetheless, targeted measures can incentivise farmers to play their part in our shared ambitions.
Intelligent policy and sound governance can be real catalysts for change. Together, we must develop sustainable food systems and focus the international debate on increasing productivity, while continuing to address climate change and the sustainable management of natural resources.
We must promote knowledge-based agriculture, strengthening research and innovation, and bridging the communication gap between farmers, researchers and agri-business. By transmitting research outcomes to farmers, and incentivising them to participate in the right research projects, we unleash their potential to drive the changes we are discussing here today. Agriculture has always been an innovative sector, but the global food imperatives are now of such a magnitude that we need to innovate more and innovate faster if we are to achieve our goals. Agriculture must continue to become more productive and more efficient.
We must, therefore, continue to strengthen the Agriculture Market Information System and enhance the contribution of the annual meeting of the Agriculture Chief Scientists, through the framework of the G20.
We must broaden the burden of food waste reduction to include the manufacturing, retail and consumer levels. Indeed, the main players in these sectors must begin to take a greater degree of responsibility in this shared challenge, and I encourage them to engage constructively in the coming months.
We must likewise focus on reducing on-farm and post-harvest losses for farmers.
Finally – and crucially – we must create the enabling environment to bring the private sector fully into this equation: productivity and sustainability cannot be achieved without investment. This means developing appropriate and accessible financial instruments on multiple levels, to provide farmers with the finance to support the significant on-farm investment required to facilitate these changes. This is a model we are currently pursuing with vigour and determination in the European Union.
Our fundamental shared challenge is this: how can we increase production while respecting our natural resources and reducing waste – how can we produce more, using less?
The EU “farm family” has 28 members, with differing needs and expectations, and we have learned many lessons during our shared journey towards a modern agricultural policy. We are willing, and committed, to sharing this bank of knowledge with our global partners.
In Europe, we consider our farmers to be custodians of the soil. As policymakers, our aim is to give them the tools and supports to produce more food – efficiently, productively, and sustainably.
Let us, therefore, resolve to work together, in every possible forum, with every willing partner, to provide the global leadership needed. Europe stands ready to play its part.
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development