Press Releases Speech by President von der Leyen at the Annual Conference of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, via video message

Speech by President von der Leyen at the Annual Conference of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, via video message

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished Guests,

Thank you for inviting me, to address your Annual Conference of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture. For more than 15 years, the Forum has convened a wide range of stakeholders across the food system. It has become an inclusive space to discuss topics such as the future of our global food system, or to look for new ideas, new solutions to make agriculture more sustainable, and give a real perspective to the many men and women in EU farming, who make sure that – every day – we have healthy, high-quality food in our shops and on our table.

This year, you are meeting at a pivotal moment. Agriculture and food security are very high on the political agenda, Both in the EU institutions and in Member States. And rightly so. In the past years, Europe’s agri-food sector has shown remarkable resilience. It weathered a pandemic and an energy crisis. The European Union supported you then, and it will continue to do so.

Let me give three examples: First, we want to ease the pressure on farmers by reducing the administrative burden, together with Member States. We have taken first steps, and we hope to reach agreement on further measures in the coming weeks.

Second, we will continue to support the agri-food sector in the current transition. Farmers are experiencing the impact of climate change first hand. In parts of Europe, the agri-food sector is already confronted with extreme temperatures, droughts, wildfires and floods. This month, the Commission published a new strategy on how to better manage climate risks, based on the first ever European Climate Risk Assessment. It also focuses on agriculture and food.

We know this transition comes to a price: Many farmers have to buy new machinery, or introduce new technologies. But we also know that they are ready to lead sustainable practices when they are supported. The benefits are immense. First for farmers: with innovation come higher yields, and more resilient business cases. Second for the environment: more biodiversity, better water quality, and healthier soil.

And, finally, it also brings benefits for manufacturers along the agri-food value chain, who want to remain globally competitive. To advance sustainable practises, the EU has committed more than 30 percent of the Common Agricultural Policy budget. Thanks to EU funding, we are tripling the number of broadband internet connections in rural areas. And we actively support innovations, from precision farming to new breeding techniques. Farmers can count on the EU as a reliable partner.

And third, we are working towards a new consensus on the future of agriculture. A consensus to replace the current polarization. That is why, in January, we launched a Strategic Dialogue on Agriculture. Because we want a transition that is led by the agri-food sector – by farmers, farm workers and rural communities, by the food industry and retailers. And by members of consumer, environmental, and financial groups. This dialogue focusses on tangible solutions.

I am deeply convinced that we can only overcome the challenges that the agri-food sector is facing, together. By the summer, your representatives will give advice on concrete recommendations. That should shape the work of the Commission in the next mandate.

Dear participants, our European vision of a healthy, inclusive, and fair society is a source of strength. Your sector has a key role to play in this. I am grateful that all the main actors in Europe’s agri-food value chain are here today, working together to be pioneers for the sector. Europe, now more than ever, must lead the way in building a sustainable agri-food system, and show the world that sustainability pays off.

Last December, COP28 opened with a declaration on sustainable agriculture, for the first time in history. By the end of conference, over 150 countries, including Europe, had signed up. There is a global momentum. In your meetings, you will further discuss how to use this momentum, in Europe. And I look forward to the results of your discussions.I wish you a good conference.

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