EU rules to prevent antibiotics from being used as growth promoters
Plans to limit the use of antibiotics on farms in order to keep food free from resistant bacteria were adopted by European Parliament on Thursday.

Veterinary medicines must not under any circumstances serve to improve the performance or compensate for poor animal husbandry, says the new law voted on by Parliament this Thursday. The law, when introduced, would limit the use of antimicrobials unless they are prescribed by a vet.

The law also states that imported foods will have to meet these new EU standards and that antibiotics cannot be used to enhance the growth of animals.

The agreement still has to be formally adopted by Council before publication on the Official Journal

To help tackle antimicrobial resistance, the law would empower the European Commission to select antimicrobials to be reserved only for treating humans.

The agreement with EU ministers was adopted with 583 votes to 16 and 20 abstentions. The agreement still has to be formally adopted by Council before publication on the Official Journal.

“The devil is however in the detail,” commented Roxane Feller, secretary general of AnimalhealthEurope.

“There are a considerable number of implementing measures – 29 – in total meaning that there is still a lot of work to be done to agree the finer details of how we will implement the changes."

Medicated feed

In a separate vote, MEPs also approved new rules on more responsible ways to produce, sell and use medicated feed to tackle the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

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Map: animal antibiotic use in Europe

Farming can’t ignore drug resistance – Huey

Brexit: EU agri food bodies call for 18-month grace period
Organisations representing European farmers and food traders and processors have sent Michel Barnier a list of measures their members need to cope with a hard Brexit.

With the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming on 29 March, organisations representing the entire agri food industry across Europe have called on EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to prepare a transition period for customs and food trading rules.

In a letter signed by the secretary generals of Copa-Cogeca (farmers and co-ops), Celcaa (commodity traders) and FoodDrinkEurope (processors), the organisations call for "contingency plans" applicable to all food products traded between the EU and the UK.

'Pragmatic approach to enforcement'

Their request is centred on a period of at least 18 months from 30 March 2019 during which:

  • EU customs authorities would "promote a pragmatic approach to enforcement," effectively showing leniency for companies struggling with new customs requirements. There should also be a temporary window for procedures to be facilitated at companies' premises rather than at the border.
  • Allow existing labelling to be used while companies adapt to new labelling obligations.
  • Mutually recognise EU and UK hauliers' licences and regulations.
  • More permanently, the organisation also want the EU and the UK to "ensure mutual recognition of SPS certification [food safety and phytosanitary]", and continue co-operation to fight food fraud.

    The proposed contingency plans also include funding for farmers and companies as well as private storage aid to face the "market disruption that will occur in agricultural markets".

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    Watch: Varadkar in Brussels to clear post-Brexit support for farmers

    No-deal Brexit would 'price NI agri food out of the market' – UFU

    Watch: Varadkar in Brussels to clear post-Brexit support for farmers
    Irish and EU leaders have met to discuss ways of securing a deal with the UK in the next 50 days, financial assistance for farmers and ways of keeping "beef with hormones" out of the EU.

    An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with leaders of EU institutions in Brussels this Wednesday to gather support ahead of fresh Brexit talks with the UK later this week, and to advance preparations for assistance in a no-deal scenario.

    "We had a discussion about the kind of support that we’ll put in place for farmers and fishermen who may be affected by it [a no-deal Brexit] – they'll be the most affected – but also for exporters," An Taoiseach said after a meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan.

    Discussions covered "means by which we can provide aid to farmers and fishermen, and means by which we can intervene in businesses that are adversely affected, either to rescue and restructure them, or to provide capital loans to allow them to re-orient their trade away from Britain and towards trade with the rest of the world," Varadkar added.

    Juncker said that the Commission is "ready to assist Ireland when it comes to farmers" – however he addded: "I don’t believe that the no-deal situation is the most probable one."

    While he re-stated Ireland's position on not making preparations for a hard border, Varadakar also stressed the need to "protect the single market and the customs union" in case of a no-deal Brexit.

    "If at some point in the future the UK were to allow chlorinated chicken or beef with hormones into their market, we wouldn’t want that coming into our market."

    State aid rules

    On Tuesday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe told the Oireachtas that he had "preliminary discussions" with the Commission on " the kinds of support that might be needed and facilitated from a state aid point of view".

    Donohoe clarified that the talks were "preliminary in the sense that much of it has to wait for conclusion until Brexit actually happens".

    Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager would need to agree to any Government support to farmers beyond current rules, and Minister Donohoe said that she and Commissioner Hogan "stand ready to help".

    Border backstop

    Juncker, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Parliament Brexit representative Guy Verhofstadt all said on Wednesday that they would reject a UK withdrawal agreement that doesn't include the so-called backstop to guarantee no return to a hard border in Ireland.

    The most striking quote came from Tusk, who said: "I’ve been wondering what the special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it safely."

    British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to visit Brussels on Thursday and Dublin on Friday for talks on the "alternative arrangements" her MPs have asked her to find with the EU.

    Read more

    'No hard border' yet no solutions from May or Donohoe

    No-deal Brexit would 'price NI agri food out of the market' – UFU

    No huge pay-off for farmers in hard Brexit

    More green conditions in next CAP
    The European Commission has unveiled its plans to increase environmental requirements for farm payments after 2020.

    Farmers must abide by new environmental rules, including on peatlands, nutrients and pesticides to receive their direct payments after 2020, according to proposals from European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan.

    Protection of wetlands and peatlands will become a condition of direct payments because they store carbon linked to climate change.

    One example Commissioner Hogan gave was an eco-scheme to maintain “climate-friendly farming on peatlands” with payments for “wet farming with no or minimal drainage”.

    Eco-schemes will use funds taken from direct payments and all countries will have to offer them, but farmers will not be obliged to join.

    Farmers will be required to use a new “Farm Sustainability Tool for Nutrients” when applying slurry and fertiliser.

    Ploughing permanent grassland will be banned in Natura 2000 sites.

    The EU’s directives on water quality and on sustainable pesticides use will also become conditions for BPS payments.

    The three-crop rule and ecological focus areas will be replaced by more flexible rules on crop rotation and non-productive features.

    The Commission plans to scrap EU-wide greening and cross-compliance rules, leaving each country to demonstrate environmental compliance.

    According to the proposal, “member states may implement a given standard differently for different regions – according to soil, climate, land use, farming structures, etc.”

    Commissioner Hogan presented the proposals to MEPs and EU agriculture ministers on Monday.

    These are the first discussions on the green architecture of the CAP, while other issues, including the budget, remain unsolved.

    Read more

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