If we do not keep up with innovation and research, farmers will be the losers in the end.
Commissioner Phil Hogan
Agriculture is living proof that innovation doesn't come from companies but the people.
Commissioner Carlos Moedas
On Friday 8 June, Commissioners Phil Hogan and Carlos Moedas held a joint Citizens’ Dialogue in Santarém, Portugal. The timing of the World Olive Oil Summit in Santarém, and the 100th Anniversary of the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture was a poignant moment for a Citizens’ Dialogue with 1,200 people – mostly comprised of farmers and scientists from all over Portugal and the EU.
The Prime Minister of Portugal and the Minister for Agriculture joined the Commissioners on stage. The debate focussed on agriculture and innovation, as well as climate change, the EU budget and the proposal for funding cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy.
To kick off the discussion, Commissioner Carlos Moedas highlighted the success story of the Portuguese olive oil export during his opening statement in Santarém. “The Portuguese olive oil export has been a success story thanks to innovation. Innovation by the Portuguese people in cooperation with the European Union” he stated.
Drawing on his personal experiences of travelling in France he referred to the Portuguese olive oil industry as breaking silos over the last twenty years, it is now on par with Spanish olive oil as a renowned high quality export.
He continued that European consumers buy into a dream, products are dreams that people wish to buy. These dreams are achieved through innovation, he said, and agriculture is living proof that innovation does not come from companies, but from people. On the future roles of people and Artificial Intelligence in agriculture, the Commissioner reassured that Artificial Intelligence will not replace people, but it will be managed by people to help improve and innovate.
Finally, the Commissioner flagged the new scheme developed by the EU for farmers and scientists to be able to apply for funding for innovative agricultural projects. €50,000 will be made available to promising ideas for them to develop these projects, and throughout the stages of development if it runs successfully, more and more funding will be made available for these projects.
On the subject of innovation, Commissioner Phil Hogan stated that it is of utmost importance that we in the EU keep up with innovation and research, as if we do not the ultimate consequences will be felt by farmers and those working in the agricultural sector. Therefore, as research and science is the only way forward, we must keep investing in it. There are difficult political choices to be made, he emphasised, especially regarding the EU budget and the gap caused by Brexit.
The newly proposed EU budget and its impact on the agricultural sector in Portugal was subject to much criticism by the citizens in the room. Questions occurred on how the 15% cut in direct aid should be explained to farmers. Commissioner Hogan emphasised that this 15.7% cut of pillar two funding was proposed for all Member States, not just Portugal.
He elaborated that an exception had been made in order to protect Portuguese farmers. Spain, Italy, France, Ireland and Germany would get a reduction in pillar one, of 3.9%, but Portugal would not get any cuts in pillar one. As well as explaining the proposed EU budget, he stated that it would have to be agreed on by every Member State, and that the proposal will be negotiated.
Also discussed was the new approach and simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy; it has been proposed that there will be performance and results-based reviews, and thereby the bureaucratic nature of the work would decrease. Each Member State should come up with a national plan with less bureaucracy as long as it meets the nine pre-defined objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy.
To round off the debate, Commissioner Hogan took an ardent stance on the protectionism and trade policies of the current US Government. The G7 meeting was ongoing during the Citizens’ Dialogue and the Commissioner announced that out of the new American protectionist approach would come the good news of a new trade deal between the EU and Mexico.
‘The Mexican Government has decided to put its faith in the European Union, and not in the United States, when it comes to high quality products in the pig meat sector’, he pronounced. The Dialogue ended in raised spirits looking forward to the Future of Europe.
The event in Santarém was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.