DEVE-IV-048

83rd Plenary Session

9 and 10 February 2010

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EN

OPINION  
of the 
Committee of the Regions 
on the
 
 
QUALITY OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

-      stresses the clear benefit of quality products, which makes them worthy of a support framework ensuring their long-term stability and the profitability of investments, through market-focused measures including legislation on the possibility of introducing country of farming labelling and promoting EU production standards;

-      considers that guidelines should be developed to ensure that the certification scheme model runs smoothly, making sure to harmonise key aspects such as minimum control requirements so as to prevent any clashes between similar schemes;

-      supports the proposals to develop both animal welfare and carbon footprint labelling; also suggests that detailed rules on integrated production should be developed at European level;

-      recognises the importance of marketing standards, which should continue to be mandatory but should be reviewed in depth;

-      believes it would be helpful to study the feasibility of establishing optional reserved terms for traditional products and products of mountain farming, bearing in mind that regional administrations could have a major role in defining these;

-      advocates maintaining both instruments (Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI);

-      urges the European Commission to seek the necessary production management instruments for PGIs and PDOs;

-      calls on the European Commission to step up its efforts to strengthen the rules in the context of the WTO, move forward with bilateral agreements with strategic countries, and insist on the protection of PDOs and PGIs in the context of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreements (ACTA).

 

Rapporteur

Mr Pedro Sanz Alonso (ES/EPP), President of the Autonomous Community of La Rioja

Reference document

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on agricultural product quality policy

COM(2009) 234 final

 

I. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

General points

1.      welcomes and commends the Commission's opinion insofar as it demonstrates the Commission's interest in quality agricultural products and, above all, in developing an appropriate framework to support and boost quality agricultural production in the EU and improve its acceptance by consumers;

2.      believes that the production of quality agricultural produce is particularly important for sustainable development in the rural context and, in the long term, helps to preserve regional landscapes and identities, which are shaped by the production methods used by farmers and livestock breeders, contributing to regional development in the future;

3.      stresses the clear benefit of these products, which makes them worthy of a support framework ensuring their long-term stability and the profitability of investments, through market-focused measures including legislation on the possibility of introducing country of farming labelling and promoting EU production standards, particularly in the areas of food safety, protection of the environment and traditional production techniques;

4.      welcomes the Commission's acknowledgement that agricultural quality is intrinsically linked to regional traditions, development and sustainability, but these need to be enhanced and protected through schemes such as Geographical Indication schemes (GIs) and their intellectual property respected internationally;

5.      reminds the Commission that it should be the first to employ concrete measures to inform consumers, particularly Europeans, of the specific features of geographical indications, their characteristics and their particular link to the sustainable development of the rural environment;

6.      agrees with the Commission that the three main issues to be addressed in developing an appropriate quality policy must be information, coherence and (avoiding) complexity;

7.      considers that guidelines should be developed to ensure that the certification scheme model runs smoothly, making sure to harmonise key aspects such as minimum control requirements so as to prevent any clashes between similar schemes;

8.      accepts that in the case of labelling measures, EU marketing standards should be established, although they should also be simplified;

9.      strongly believes that an ambitious agri-foods quality policy is key to achieving the significant development of a sustainable European agricultural industry able to meet the needs of European society and win market share outside the EU;

10.      also believes that fair recognition should be given, before European society as a whole, to the efforts by European farmers and livestock breeders to adapt to stringent environmental, food safety and animal welfare requirements;

With regard to EU farming requirements

11.      believes that it could be worthwhile to consider introducing voluntary labelling indicating the place of farming (place of harvest of crop products, place of birth/raising of livestock, place of milking for dairy cows, etc.). It could also be useful to consider a place of origin requirement (in a processed product, this refers to the place in which the last major processing operation took place), after assessing the pros and cons of this measure, which is already mandatory for some products. These terms would make it possible for European producers to stand out, and would help to provide consumers with comprehensive, specific information;

12.      supports the proposals to develop both animal welfare and carbon footprint labelling; also suggests that detailed rules on integrated production should be developed at European level;

With regard to marketing standards

13.      recognises the importance of marketing standards, which should continue to be mandatory but should be reviewed in depth with a view to eliminating any unnecessary aspects and leaving only those aspects that are truly important for the marketing of each product. This review should be carried out in close cooperation with operators, by setting up a review mechanism that would enable changes to be introduced quickly and flexibly. In any case, the sector-specific features of marketing standards must be maintained so that they are easy to understand and apply;

14.      believes it would be helpful to study the feasibility of establishing optional reserved terms for traditional products and products of mountain farming, bearing in mind that regional administrations could have a major role in defining these;

With regard to geographical indications

15.      opposes the merging of the three existing schemes, in order to maintain the coherence of the system and the specific features of each product; therefore, advocates maintaining both instruments (Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)), as both have proved very useful and have been accepted well by producers; however, considers that information and promotion efforts concerning these schemes should be stepped up;

16.      considers it essential to simplify not only administrative procedures but also all the other aspects relating to registration, maintenance and management to which operators registered to the different schemes must adhere;

17.      supports these terms being used for processed products, provided that there is sufficient certainty about the origin of the ingredients used and that the producers of the relevant denomination have authorised its use;

18.      believes that it could be interesting to look into extending certification requirements for fresh produce to different players in the supply chain, following the example of organic products, with a view to enhancing any positive results;

19.      emphasises that many of those involved in the PGI and PDO schemes have expressed the need for instruments to regulate production, and stresses that if PGIs and PDOs are not provided with these instruments they could disappear or lose their intrinsic authenticity and quality, thus jeopardising the entire social and productive fabric of rural areas in many European regions;

20.      urges the European Commission to seek the necessary production management instruments for PGIs and PDOs, and to make these available to them. Endogenous regional development is often linked to sustainable rural development, and this will not be not possible if PGIs and PDOs do not have instruments to regulate production potential and thus obtain a reasonable balance between supply and demand, enabling production to grow in line with marketing;

21.      PGIs and PDOs are intellectual property rights and, as such, should be allowed the possibility of voluntary regulation, as afforded to any commercial brand, in both qualitative and quantitative terms; this regulation should be seen not as an end in itself, but as a means to ensure sustainability;

22.      recommends looking more closely into the protection of PDOs and PGIs. The industry and the regions believe that there should be a single level of international protection, and the Committee therefore calls on the European Commission to take the required steps to ensure maximum protection, whatever consequences the different PDOs and PGIs may initially have beyond the borders of the regions or the Member States;

23.      calls on the European Commission to step up its efforts to strengthen the rules in the context of the WTO, move forward with bilateral agreements with strategic countries, and insist on the protection of PDOs and PGIs in the context of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreements (ACTA);

With regard to organic farming

24.      welcomes the recent legislative changes in this field and the decision to use the new EU organic logo from 2010 onwards, and firmly believes that this measure, together with the major efforts by the European organic farming industry, will ensure that this extremely environmentally-friendly form of production is developed widely;

With regard to traditional specialities

25.      agrees with the Commission that this scheme has failed to reach its potential, and concurs that it could be useful to examine the feasibility of introducing the term "traditional product", provided that it complies with well-defined, certifiable criteria;

26.      calls on the Commission to examine and implement the necessary specific support schemes for traditional products on the one hand, and mountain products on the other, in the event that these eventually replace the current TSGs;

With regard to the coherence of new EU schemes

27.      recommends that the Commission ensure the coherence of future EU agricultural product quality schemes and initiatives by proactively and pragmatically assessing their added value and advisability; considers, in this respect, that it is also important to take into account the requirements of consumers and the real benefits for them of implementing new schemes;

With regard to the guidelines for private and national food certification schemes

28.      supports the Commission in its initiative to draw up best practice guidelines for all systems relating to agricultural and agri-food product quality, and agrees with the decision not to draw up legislation to regulate private and national certification systems;

Final recommendations

29.      urges the Commission to make substantial efforts to provide information on and promote the European agricultural quality system, geared towards European consumers, with a view to strengthening the system, clarifying its various concepts and promoting the consumption of these products, so that European society as a whole can help to maintain the productive fabric of Europe's rural areas;

30.      calls on the Commission to give greater recognition to the strategic role of the European regions in quality agricultural and agri-food production, and to heed the requests of the regions in this field, which is so important for better regional socio-economic development.

Brussels, 10 February 2010

The President 
of the Committee of the Regions 
 
 
 
 
Mercedes Bresso

 
 

The Secretary-General 
of the Committee of the Regions 
 
 
 
 
Gerhard Stahl

 

II. PROCEDURE

Title

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on agricultural product quality policy

Reference(s)

COM(2009) 234 final

Legal basis

Article 265(1) TEC

Procedural basis

Optional referral

Date of Council referral/Date of Commission letter

Ms Day's letter of 20 March 2009

Date of President's decision

15/06/2009

Commission responsible

Commission for Sustainable Development

Rapporteur

Mr Pedro Sanz Alonso (ES/EPP)

President of the Autonomous Community of La Rioja

Analysis

22 October 2009

Discussed in commission

10 December 2009

Date adopted by commission

10 December 2009

Result of the vote in commission

Majority

Date adopted in plenary

10 February 2010

Previous Committee opinion(s)

 

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