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Vote on Proposal to Strengthen EU Animal, Plant Health Rules Welcome

13 February 2014

EU - Copa-Cogeca has welcomed European Parliaments vote on new legislation designed to strengthen EU animal and plant health rules and tackle more effectively pests and outbreaks of animal diseases like African Swine Fever. It is a good basis to work on, Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said.

In particular, Copa-Cogeca welcomes the fact that MEPs have clarified the duties of farmers, and other relevant operators of the food chain, including veterinarians, pet keepers, and the general public to ensure together the good health of animals and plants, and prevent the introduction and spread of diseases in the EU.

They also clarified the role of authorities to take biosecurity measures across the borders. Furthermore, MEPs proposed that member states should pay particular attention to antimicrobial resistance and ensure better access to professional training in this area when designing their national plans for the prevention and control of infectious animal diseases, recognising at the same time farmers’ professional experience.

Copa-Cogeca supports MEPs firm position to broaden the scope of competences on animal health to other qualified professionals other than veterinarians. This is crucial especially in remote areas or where a lack of specialised veterinarians is still a serious problem.

However, Copa-Cogeca has serious concerns about setting out rules and legal provisions both at EU or Member State level on farm visits by veterinarians or other qualified professionals.

Mr Pesonen said: "We still have great concerns as prescriptive rules will not address the real needs on farms. It is much better dealt with at farm level. Costs and benefits have not been assessed, and there is a clear risk of it being counterproductive, leading just to more paperwork and red tape.

"We believe that an open and intelligent dialogue is needed, where real needs of farmers are examined in order to help prevent diseases from emerging in the first place. We should build on the positive experience of EU Food Law where operators are given more flexibility; as long as standards are respected."

Copa-Cogeca nevertheless welcome MEPs request to actively involve operators in the implementation of several aspects of the new plant health and animal health law, like simulation exercise, contingency plans, and when drafting delegated and implementing acts. An open dialogue between operators and authorities both at EU and Member State level is crucial to ensure effective implementation of the legislation.

Mr Pesonen said: "We also welcome MEPs request to foresee under the new plant health fund the financial compensation for early eradication measures of invasive alien species which have a direct impact to plant health and agriculture. Without any incentives for early eradication, there is a risk of a negative impact on the overall implementation of the plant health law.

"At the same time, it is also welcomed, although effective only from 2017 under the expenditure regulation, the possibility to compensate operators for the value of the destroyed plants following the implementation of eradication measures for some important pests."

Mr Pesonen went on to highlight the fact that a good functioning internal market is crucial. Measures which are backed up by science and are transparent and proportionate to the risk must be at the core of any decisions taken both at EU and Member State level. Copa-Cogeca meanwhile acknowledges the vote on the import regime for plants, but warns that we still need a very careful look to ensure a feasible and cost effective system addressing the real risks.

Wrapping up, Mr Pesonen said he understood MEPs rejection of the Commission’s proposal on the new seed law, realising that MEPs need time to work with such complex legislation. Copa-Cogeca has constantly repeated its concerns over the lack of definition on heterogeneous material and the lack of rules related to the niche market. This could seriously affect the quality of conventional seeds.

Both texts will be scrutinised by the full House at the March or April plenary session.

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