Support for the creation of local food systems
January 28, 2011
Europe's commitment to rural development – one of the pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – would be greatly helped by more support for the creation of local food systems, the Committee of the Regions told EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos on Thursday. Presenting her outlook opinion at the CoR plenary session in Brussels, rapporteur Lenie Dwarshuis-van de Beek (NL/ALDE) urged the Commissioner to follow up his call for input from the Committee and take on board her suggestions for improving local market access for farmers and food producers. "There is a skewed balance of power in the agricultural and food sectors which is putting the survival of agriculture at risk. Around 80% of world food production is sold locally, but in the EU the figure is just 20%, because of the focus on large-scale, industrialised food production. The new challenges we face such as preventing global shortages of food, fodder and energy, and reducing the environmental damage of food production, strengthen the argument for a reappraisal of local food production as part of the Common Agricultural Policy," Mrs Dwarshuis said. The outlook opinion, which was requested by Commissioner Cioloº at an earlier visit to the CoR plenary in June 2010 as part of his widespread consultation on the future of the CAP, highlights the many benefits of local food systems on rural development. Not only do they offer strong economic gains - the short chains between producer and consumer promote local jobs and help local businesses acquire a larger market – but they also bring social advantages, as short distribution channels help bring greater interaction between farmers and consumers, thus allowing food producers to react more effectively to demands for sustainable production methods. And the reduction in 'food miles' they bring means fewer emissions, helping Europe to meet its climate change ambitions as well. There is no clear definition of what a local food system precisely entails, and Mrs Dwarshuis called on Commissioner Ciolos to support her calls for the creation of a pan-European set of guidelines that would help local and regional authorities wishing to integrate local food systems within their regional development programmes to do so effectively. She also proposed setting up a monitoring plan at regional level, giving local and regional authorities the responsibility to register and assess local food products and grant them a local food logo. "It is widely understood that European agriculture's best chance for competing on the world stage is to focus on quality, and local food systems can help encourage the production of high-quality food using particular production methods. But there is still much that needs to be done to increase the professionalism and added-value of local food systems, and that is why I hope to see the Commissioner take up the challenge as part of his reform of the CAP," Mrs Dwarshuis concluded. ****** Commissioner Ciolos has been a regular visitor to the CoR Plenary Session over the last year, reflecting his commitment to involve the representatives of local and regional authorities in the CAP reform process. The January 2011 visit is his third in the last year, while during his June visit the Committee adopted its first position on the reform of the CAP – an own-initiative opinion by rapporteur René Souchon (FR/PES), President of the Auvergne Regional Council and a former French agriculture minister. In addition to the Dwarshuis opinion, another CAP-related opinion was adopted at the January plenary – on the distribution of food aid – by rapporteur Ossi Martikainen (FI/ALDE), Chairman of the Lapinlahti Municipal Council. The Committee has also appointed Luis Durnwalder (IT/EPP), Chairman of the Bolzano Autonomous Provincial Executive, as rapporteur on the European Commission's proposals for the reform of the CAP. The first discussion of that opinion will take place during the 10-11 March meeting of the CoR's NAT Commission in Clermont-Ferrand, France. ****** The Committee of the Regions The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers. Please visit their website below. Source: CoR press release
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