Our Interview with MEP Herbert Dorfmann is a follow up conversation after his Key Note speech at the ERIAFF Convention in Hague ( European Regions for Innovation in Agriculture, Food and Forestry), ERIAFF is currently developing an all European platform for innovation Agriculture, Food and Forestry Industries.
Do you foresee a growing impact of European regions on development of sustainable agriculture in Europe?
I think EU regions are important for development of agricultural policy and for agriculture in Europe and if you look at EU policy in most Member States the regions decide on development plans, so they have money on their hands from the 2nd pillar of CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). So it is up to them how to use the 2nd Pillar of CAP, which is a very important pillar and it is up to the regions how to support the sustainable agriculture all over European Union.
CAP is the hot topic of discussions now; who and what should be given priorities in it?
First of all I think the EU agriculture is extremely important and we very often underestimate our importance and our performance all over the world, because it is now one of the biggest agricultural regions in the world plays vital role on the international scale. So I think it is really time to think about innovation, we need to look at our products that are quite expensive if you look at global level, but which are safe and of high quality. How we can develop this products, how we can be successful and competitive with this products. We have to defend our geographic indications for example, safety should be a must for agricultural products in Europe and then I think we have an agriculture that is very much based on family businesses and CAP should support these family businesses and this is not a question of size. Family business for example in my home region of South Tyrol are very small, in other places they are bigger. I think that the fundamental idea that there are families behind the business is extremely important.
Can you see the extension of sustainable technologies and organic pesticides into greenhouses production, which by tradition are considered to be not only energy draining but also heavily depended on chemicals? Do current policies support it?
I think this is not a question of greenhouse production or not a greenhouse production, we need to be as sustainable as possible in our agricultural production and this does not mean that we have to have everything produced organically, I think this is not possible and there is no market for that. I think agriculture should be market oriented business and should produce what consumers like to buy, but there is a clear signal from consumers that they want sustainable products. Therefore, I think for the green house production it is extremely important, because greenhouse production from this point of view maybe more complicated because deceases spread very easily, so there is a need or demand for high use of pesticides in the green house production. We need innovation, we need to look at how integrated agro-production can work in green houses and I think we should really work on innovation, because more and more consumers will pay more attention to this question.
Before the end of 2017 what new policies will come out or are in the works that investors in EU agriculture should watch?
Those people who are doing agricultural business in EU first of all want to sell their products and this for me it is very important to have an open market for our products, open also for people coming in EU for investment, open for products going out of EU and at this moment we are quite successful in it. We had a very important improvement on our international trade in our agricultural products, especially products of high quality and expensive products, so I think we need to open up our markets. I am not in favor of completely liberal politics, I think markets need to have rules, but I think we have really good products from our agriculture and food industry and people all over the world like to eat them.
We have a lot of ongoing policies: we have free trade agreements with Vietnam, Japan which can be a very important market for our food industry and agro production in Europe. We are starting to debate how CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) will go on beyond 2020 and I think this will be the most important debate in the next months here is European Parliament.
You represent South Tyrol province of Italy in the European Parliament, which is well known for its sound agriculture producing abundance of fruits (apples), wines, meat products. What kind of Agtech innovations have been used by the farmers there?
Our Agriculture is very specific, we have wine, apples in some parts of the region, in the mountains we have milk production. If it comes to innovation apple production is extremely important sector: we produce about 10% of all European apples. It is quite an important share and specially the use of pesticides and water for example is very important topic and we need innovation for these areas, Big Data I think especially in the use of water. We will more and more have precision farming and we will give water really where it is needed and not everywhere. This will be a big debate in the future because water is not available any more in abundance also in my region in the middle of the mountains. Also we should use precision agriculture in the use of pesticides, innovation technologies extremely important. We have to look how to improve the distribution of pesticides that should go to the plants and not to the air. There is a lot of work to do!
Herbert Dorfmann is a Member of European Parliament representing the people of the Euro region Tirol-South Tyrol-Trentino and of the Belluno and Friuli areas.
He was born in 1969 in Brixen/Bressanone and he studied Agrarian Sciences in Piacenza. He started my professional career as a professor at the Agricultural College in Auer/Ora and, then, became director of the agriculture department at the Bozen/Bolzano Chamber of Commerce. Herbert Dorfmann directed for nearly 10 years the South Tyrolean Farmers’ Federation.
He started my political career in 2005, with the South Tyrolean People’s Party, as mayor of his hometown. In 2009 he was elected for the first mandate at the European Parliament and in 2014 was re-elected for a second mandate.