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New COPA president wants viable future for agricultural producers

Joachim Rukwied has been chosen by the European organization COPA (the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organizations) as its new president, replacing the Danish Martin Merrild, who will now be one of the six vice-presidents, together with Joe Healy of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA); Marian Sikora, of the Polish Federation of Agricultural Producers; Henri Brichart, of the French Federation of Agricultural Workers' Unions (FNSEA); Roberto Moncalvo, of the Italian agrarian organization Coldiretti; and Franz Reisecker, of the agricultural chambers of Austria (LKO).

Rukwied belongs to the German agrarian organization DBV and manages a 295 hectare farm devoted to the cultivation of arable crops, namely cereals, beets, oilseeds and open ground vegetables. He is also a wine producer. "I will continue the excellent work of my predecessor, Martin Merrild, who has helped establish COPA's position on the future CAP and has promoted a good trade agreement between the EU and Japan," he stated right after the election.

COPA represents and works to ensure a viable future for 23 million European producers and their families. "I firmly believe in the European project and in the value of the Common Agricultural Policy. The top priority for me will be to ensure that we have a solid, common and more sustainable and simple CAP in the coming years, with the support of sufficient funding, so that producers can deal with the ever-increasing challenges, such as climate change and the volatility of the markets," he said.

In order to achieve these objectives, "it is of paramount importance to simplify the rules of the CAP, to reduce bureaucracy for producers and to ensure that we have common standards across the EU", he stressed. Rukwied considers it important to maintain the current level of direct payments in the CAP, so that producers can better manage the risks to their income. "The safety nets of the markets must also be maintained and further developed. Attention should also be paid to measures aimed at helping producers to better manage market risks with the development of the futures market, allowing them to cope with increasing volatility. Risk management measures should remain voluntary. It is important for these measures to be included in the Commission's Communication on the CAP, which could be published by the end of November," he pointed out.

In the opinion of the new president of the COPA, the position of producers in the food chain must also be strengthened, and he appreciated the work carried out by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, whom he urged to offer concrete proposals in 2018 to eliminate unfair commercial practices. "We need legislation to combat unfair practices, since voluntary approaches have not worked," he stressed.

Rukwied appeared to be determined to reach "fair and balanced" trade agreements and did not hide his concern with those currently being negotiated with the Latin American Mercosur trade bloc and with Australia and New Zealand. "I will insist on making sure that a good agreement is reached for European producers and that agriculture is not used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations," he warned.

Regarding Brexit, the head of COPA, which consists of 60 organizations from the European Union member states and 36 other partners from other European countries, said to be in favour of "minimising any trade disruption that may be caused by the loss of 10.3 billion Euro resulting from the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU."


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