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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » November 25, 2011
North American and European Union Agricultural Conference
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Joint Action Needed
November 25, 2011   
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More than 250 participants representing agricultural organizations from Europe and North America came to the 35th North American and European Union Agricultural Conference held in Warsaw in October. This was the first time Poland hosted the event.

The NAEU Agricultural conference is held every two years. The previous one took place in Niagara Falls, Canada, in 2009. The sessions focused mainly on the global economic crisis and its impact on agriculture. This year’s conference, organized by Poland’s National Council of Agricultural Chambers and the COPA-COGECA committees—European organizations of agricultural trade unions and farmers’ cooperatives—was an opportunity to discuss trade policy within the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its future directions, to exchange experiences and sum up the benefits of a common trade policy.

The goals of the conference, whose theme was “Which direction for agricultural policies?,” included identifying common elements and the most important differences in individual countries’ agricultural policies.

“The new Common Agricultural Policy should be clear, simple and therefore comprehensible to everybody,” said Poland’s agriculture and rural development minister Marek Sawicki about the discussion on EU agricultural policy priorities. “It should foster innovation and competitiveness in European agriculture; it should not be conservative in the sense of maintaining and preserving stagnation through unequal terms of competition.”

Conference participants also talked about what actions could serve to improve the position of farmers in the food chain. Gerd Sonnleitner, president of COPA, pointed out that the economic and financial crisis changed all the points of reference on which people relied when trying to understand the changing world. Agriculture has once again become a priority topic on the international arena. This is obvious when you look at the conclusions from the G20 summit and the World Bank’s conclusions as to agriculture’s huge importance for economic growth, Sonnleitner said.

Representatives of farmers’ cooperatives spoke of necessary reactions to globalization and concentration of entities in the food chain. Paolo Bruni, president of COGECA, said there was just one objective: better valorization of agricultural production so that farmers can benefit the most.

Sawicki pointed out the dangers of speculation on agricultural markets. “Food cannot be the subject of speculation. We cannot allow repeated situations when the same wheat is sold 15 times over without ever being moved from its original place of storage. Forward transactions have to be required to include the movement of goods with their purchase,” Sawicki said.

The conference participants could exchange views regarding the main factors causing market instability and how to meet the challenges farmers face today. These challenges include price fluctuation, predicting economic frameworks, supply and demand management. Participants could also present their proposals for action aimed at ensuring the proper functioning of the financial market for agricultural products.

Everyone agreed that food chain security has been a key issue in recent years. Despite the publication of numerous reports and recommendations, farmer incomes have not increased, while dishonest trading practices continue, conference participants said. This explains why it is necessary to identify the key problems and develop instruments to improve farmers’ position in the food chain, increasing their incomes in the process.

Other discussions at the conference concerned innovation and development opportunities for agriculture and rural areas. As the debate’s participants pointed out, international institutions dealing with development policies agree that it is necessary to improve research for agriculture and accelerate the transfer of innovations to farms.
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