The entry into force of the Lisbon treaty in 2009 "significantly raised the status of the agriculture and rural affairs (AGRI) committee", says Czesław Adam Siekierski. "Now parliament takes part in the creation of EU law in the agricultural sphere on an equal footing with the council of ministers." This was shown, says the Polish chair of parliament's AGRI committee, through the "reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) for the period 2015-2020, where MEPs have had a significant say in its final shape". For Siekierski, however, "general reflection on the more than 50 years of experience of the CAP is needed in order to decide on how this policy should develop after 2020", adding, "We want to do this in 2015 prior to a review of the latest reform which has been planned for 2016." He also pointed to the "considerable knowledge and experience" represented by AGRI's members, with a "substantial number of them being working farmers".
"What I would like is for meetings of the AGRI committee to be dominated by the business-like discussion and hard work that our farmers put in"
"The key area of work for the committee is food production, which has a significant bearing on the condition of society and its state of health," he highlights. With this in mind, Siekierski says AGRI will be focusing on "improving the safety and quality of foods, with particular attention given to the protection of human health and to countering epidemiological hazards, and to questions of animal welfare and plant health". Other key areas of activity, he says, will include "supporting the organisation of an agricultural market and its various institutions", "analysis of the work of the WTO as regards liberalisation of world trade and involvement in the drafting of a new EU-US trade agreement", the "impact of agriculture and the process of food creation on the state of the environment and climate change" and the "social and demographic situation in the countryside".
On a personal level, the EPP deputy says, "What I would like is for meetings of the AGRI committee to be dominated by the business-like discussion and hard work that our farmers put in." This approach is crucial, he says, as "agriculture represents over 40 per cent of the EU budget".
With the new commission soon to start work, Siekierski says he is "looking forward to a proper approach to the CAP and an understanding of the specifics of agriculture, where there are fluctuations in production that are beyond the control of the farmer, which often makes intervention necessary". The Commission must be aware, he says, that "despite substantial support for farmers within the CAP framework, on average farmers' income is lower than that of other occupational groups, and with each year that passes the number of young farmers declines, which is testimony to the dwindling attractions of this occupation". Siekierski concludes by warning that "European agriculture is increasingly dependent on external conditions". "What our farmers need," he says, "are stable and long-term policies."
Czesław Adam Siekierski is chair of parliament's agriculture and rural affairs committee