The Agriculture and Rural Development Committee questioned the Polish candidate for the agriculture portfolio Janusz Wojciechowski on EU farm policy reform and trade negotiations.

Political groups’ coordinators from the committee will meet shortly after the hearing to assess, within 24 hours, the performance of Commissioner-designate Wojciechowski.

Future of EU farming and farmers

During his introductory speech, Mr Wojciechowski said the EU needs a “long-term vision for European agriculture”, inspired by current EU climate and energy strategies. The first step should be a “special report” looking into the “true picture” of the current situation on the ground. He called for further support for EU farmers, better environmental protection and for animal-welfare standards to be improved.

MEPs put forward several questions on the ongoing reform of EU farm policy, on how to make sure it remains a truly common policy that delivers both for farmers and consumers and how to make it more environmentally sound. Mr Wojciechowski said he was “open to discussions” to improve legislative proposals on the reform of the EU’s farm policy already on the table.

Members also questioned the Commissioner-designate on ways to ensure that EU farmers and consumers are better protected in free-trade talks, specifically mentioning for instance the ongoing EU-Mercosur negotiations, and asked him how foreign countries’ protectionist measures should be handled. They also discussed strengthening farmers’ position in the food supply chain, fairer distribution of direct payments within and among member states and measures to tackle anti-microbial resistance.

Weak Wojciechowski: EPP Group asks for clarifications

“The performance of the Commissioner-designate Wojciechowski was very weak,” said Herbert Dorfmann MEP, EPP Group spokesperson for the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. The EPP Group will therefore ask for further clarifications before deciding on its position.

“He did not provide concrete answers to a lot of questions and some answers were really strange. On international trade, for example, he said that we should pay money to the farms that use feed coming from outside the EU. He also had very strange ideas on animal welfare and the ‘green’ deal. On the CAP reform, which is on the table, he is not sure whether to go on or not. He said that he wants to change it but he did not say what he wants to change. He said he wants a long term perspective for agriculture, but we did not understand what this perspective actually is,” he added.

“We have to go to the second round,” underlined Dorfmann. “He has to clarify his arguments and we need to have more precise answers to our questions.”

“The EPP Group in the European Parliament is the ally of farmers across Europe. We have always defended a strong Common Agricultural Policy and we will continue to do so,” underlined Siegfrid Mureşan MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group responsible for budgetary issues.

“The next five years will be crucial for the future of the CAP. With many challenges ahead, our priority is to secure the future of European food production by giving our farmers the prospect to invest and giving them planning security for the future,” concluded MEP Mureşan.

S&Ds ask much more detailed answers

The Socialists and Democrats expressed disappointment following the weak performance of Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski during today’s hearing. However the group has decided to give him a second chance.

“We expected much more detailed and ambitious answers from Mr Wojciechowski today.  The risk of re-nationalisation in the Common Agriculture Policy proposal is key for us, and Mr Wojciechowski has not provided any clear strategy against this. This perspective undermines the most important common European policy devoted to the ambitious management of our soils and the protection of a fair balance between production, consumer health and environment.   The policy does not fulfil the European-level ambition for more competitive and sustainable agriculture, which must be a leading actor in the New Green Deal, with a convincing transition toward more climate-friendly production practices,” said Paolo de Castro, MEP and the S&D coordinator in the committee on Agriculture.

“The written, and now the oral, replies still lack the ambition needed to both safeguard our food production, and to help ensure a sustainable future for all our citizens.  What’s more, the replies about the Farm to Fork Strategy did not touch on the food supply chain, starting with the farmers. Our farmers have to plan long term, whichever region or sector they work in: we don´t have a clear vision at the end of today´s hearing, so we need much more before we can consider approval of the candidate,” he concluded.

The hearing with Agriculture and Rural Development Committee MEPs was chaired by Norbert Lins (EPP, DE). Members from the associated Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee also participated in the hearing.

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.