German agri-strategy targets animal welfare, organic production

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Environment, welfare and organic production targeted in German coalition policy agreement ©iStock/Droits d'auteur
Environment, welfare and organic production targeted in German coalition policy agreement ©iStock/Droits d'auteur

Related tags Agriculture Germany

German legislators have detailed plans to develop an animal welfare label and promote organic agriculture as part of a deal that could enable the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to head up a coalition government under Angela Merkel.

The centre-right CDU and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) struck a “grand coalition​” agreement with the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP) last week.

If approved by SDP members, the alliance will end a period of political uncertainty after Merkel’s CDU won the most seats but failed to secure an absolute majority in an election held over four months ago.

The agreement offers the SDP a number of key concessions – including handing the party the influential Ministry of Finance.

The SDP’s membership will vote on whether to ratify the agreement at the beginning of March.

Agricultural ambitions

The coalition agreement between the CDU, CSU and SDP contains substantial detail on the intended direction of agri-food policy.

In terms of food strategy, the coalition agreed that a plan to reduce the sugar, fat and salt content in processed foods will be presented “later this year​”.

Within a year and a half, the Agriculture Ministry will also develop a full farming strategy with the aim of promoting environmentally-friendly crop production methods.

The Agriculture Ministry will establish a government-sanctioned animal welfare label by 2019, according to the near-180 page coalition document.

Among the proposals, the government will promote investment in high-welfare livestock rearing practices, the non-curative use of antibiotics will be targeted and legal prerequisites will be established to support alternatives to piglet castration.

Meanwhile, legislators will encourage biodiversity through a programme to protect insect populations. The use of controversial weedkiller glyphosate should be stopped “as soon as possible”,​ the agreement added.

The target – initially outlined in the previous CDU government’s Future Strategy of Organic Agriculture last year – for 20% of German agricultural land to be cultivated under organic practices by 2030, was also confirmed.

Bioland calls for ‘binding measures’

German regulators need to implement “binding measures​” to support organic food production if the country’s agri-food sector is to fulfil this ambition, sector body Bioland warned.

Bioland president Jan Plagge welcomed the course set by the coalition negotiations, which he described as a “breakthrough for the German agriculture and food industry”​. However, he continued: “Binding measuers from the future Federal Government must now follow.”

Currently, around 7.5% of agricultural land in Germany is organic, representing around 1.25m hectares. To hit the 20% target, this level would have to increase to around 3.4m hectares.

To achieve this, “significantly more funding than previously planned”​ will be required, Plagge argued.

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