Europe's commitment to rural development – one of the pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – would be greatly helped by more support for the creation of local food systems, the Committee of the Regions told EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş.
Presenting her outlook opinion at the CoR plenary session in Brussels, rapporteur Lenie Dwarshuis-van de Beek (NL/ALDE) urged the Commissioner to follow up his call for input from the Committee and take on board her suggestions for improving local market access for farmers and food producers.
There was a skewed balance of power in the agricultural and food sectors which was putting the survival of agriculture at risk, Mrs Dwarshuis said. Around 80% of world food production was sold locally, but in the EU the figure was just 20%, because of the focus on large-scale, industrialised food production, she went on. The new challenges one faced such as preventing global shortages of food, fodder and energy, and reducing the environmental damage of food production, strengthen the argument for a reappraisal of local food production as part of the Common Agricultural Policy.
The outlook opinion, which was requested by Commissioner Cioloş at an earlier visit to the CoR plenary in June 2010 as part of his widespread consultation on the future of the CAP, highlights the many benefits of local food systems on rural development. Not only do they offer strong economic gains – the short chains between producer and consumer promote local jobs and help local businesses acquire a larger market – but they also bring social advantages, as short distribution channels help bring greater interaction between farmers and consumers, thus allowing food producers to react more effectively to demands for sustainable production methods. And the reduction in 'food miles' they bring means fewer emissions, helping Europe to meet its climate change ambitions as well.
There is no clear definition of what a local food system precisely entails, and Mrs Dwarshuis called on Commissioner Cioloş to support her calls for the creation of a pan-European set of guidelines that would help local and regional authorities wishing to integrate local food systems within their regional development programmes to do so effectively. She also proposed setting up a monitoring plan at regional level, giving local and regional authorities the responsibility to register and assess local food products and grant them a local food logo.
Source: European Commission