IGW / GFFA 2013 - Opening address delivered by Federal Minister Ilse Aigner

Federal Minister Ilse Aigner

Speech delivered by the Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Ilse Aigner, on the occasion of the opening of International Green Week (IGW) and the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) on 17 January 2013.

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I. Shaping agricultural policy together

Green Week is a summit of the highest order. Many colleagues who work in international agricultural policy come here to see this major showcase of the agri-food sector. I would like to extend a particularly heartfelt welcome to my Dutch colleague. Dear Sharon Dijksma, your timing is perfect. You took office just as Green Week was approaching. You are the youngest agriculture minister in Europe. And you immediately chose a massive stage to appear on. So congratulations on two counts – and I look forward to excellent cooperation!

Between now and the summer, we will be working together on shaping the future of agricultural policy. That also means together with the European Commission and together with our colleagues in the European Parliament. In this context, we need to focus on one goal above all – we must join together in working towards a future where rural and entrepreneurial farming are viable and rewarding!

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been a member of your farming and food business community for almost five years now. This is my fifth Green Week. Once again, the family has come together. Being part of this community makes me feel both proud and grateful. It is a great pleasure and honour for me to welcome you all here.

II. Honouring the Netherlands as host country

Dear Sharon Dijksma, the Netherlands are a highly valued and loyal partner for us. This partnership has already lasted 60 years. Year after year, your enrich Green Week with your contributions.

Your achievements are truly impressive. You top the list of countries from which we Germans import food. We’re looking forward to trying the delicacies from your country. Good things from Holland come from Frau Antje among many others!

You also top the list of countries which make the world blossom with flowers. Thanks to you, Green Week isn’t just green – it’s also purple, red and yellow. In fact there’s a whole sea of incredibly brilliant colours. Tulips from Amsterdam are a massive hit in Germany!

And now you also top the list of countries that have been partner countries at Green Week. With all this success in agriculture, I believe you can even cope with us beating you on the football pitch now and then!

I say to you: Hartelijk welkom, Nederland!

III. GFFA Opening

At the same time, I would like to welcome the many ministers of agriculture from all around the world. Because today we’re also opening the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture. And I must admit to being a little bit proud of having succeeded in making the GFFA an established institution. It is now taking place for the fifth time. When we started, we had 26 country delegations. This year, more than 80 ministers are coming to Berlin. Worldwide, there is no other meeting of agriculture ministers that has such huge participation or is held in such high esteem.

The GFFA is firmly established as a driving force. We have been instrumental in shaping international decisions

  • on speculation with foodstuffs
  • on the right to land access
  • on the role of agriculture for climate change

This year we will be addressing investments in agriculture. Because we know that to combat hunger and poverty in the world, a strong agricultural sector is absolutely essential!

Which is why we need more public and private money. We need more money for sustainable investments in agricultural production. This is bound to bring rewards – not only from a financial perspective, but in human terms too. I believe that this is a responsibility we must all face up to!

IV. Economic prospects for the farming sector

We all know what the farming sector is capable of achieving. It secures food. It manages landscapes. And it produces energy.

Who will secure our future if not our farmers?

The green professions take full credit here. We need them. They take responsibility for humans, animals and the environment. They turn rural areas into pleasant places to live. On behalf of the entire Federal Government, I wish to say a sincere "God bless you" for all of this!

But one thing is clear – nobody can make a living from good wishes alone. The farming industry is an industry. Our farming families bear an entrepreneurial risk. Farms have long been high-tech operations. And yet it remains hard work – 365 days a year. Entrepreneurs who perform at such high levels deserve one thing above all, namely a sustained profit from their efforts.

So it’s excellent to hear that farm incomes in Germany recorded positive growth in the 2011/2012 business year. There’s good reason for this – the quality of German products is highly rated both at home and abroad. A current survey conducted by my Ministry found that three out of four respondents are very satisfied or satisfied with their food, regardless of whether the products come from

  • a farm
  • a farmers’ market
  • the supermarket

The quality is right – right across the product range!

The reason why the export machine is running at full speed is that a growth rate of 6 percent is providing an enormous push for the entire industry. This is recognition for your work, ladies and gentlemen, pouring in from far beyond our national borders. The German agri-food sector has every right to be proud of this achievement!

Dear Joachim Rukwied, the Federal Government values Germany’s farming families as key achievers. This is why we give them reliable support:

  • when it comes to safeguarding the agricultural social security system
  • when it comes to agricultural diesel
  • when it comes to ensuring that farmers can hand down their farms within the family without being hit by inheritance tax. I believe this is the best way to support young farmers!

Currently the prospects for the farming sector are being debated in Brussels. The pressure on the EU farming budget has never been greater. In a first round, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel negotiated the financial plan for the years 2014 to 2020 with heads of state and government. Further rounds are to follow. I have been and remain in permanent contact with Angela Merkel. You can rest assured that we will work together in fighting for the interests of rural farming in Germany!

Once the budget has been agreed, we need to decide on the direction the Common Agricultural Policy will take. My message to the Commission on this matter is as follows: yes to a stronger focus on environmental issues in agricultural policy, but only if the achievements made thus far are acknowledged!

Because when I see what our farmers from Schleswig-Holstein to Baden-Württemberg, from Saarland to Saxony have already accomplished – and I'm supported here by all 16 of my colleagues from the Länder – I have to say that we cannot allow 7 percent of land to lie fallow in the form of ecological priority areas. We simply cannot afford to do this!

And furthermore I say yes to solidarity with our European neighbours, but gradually and with a sense of proportion!

Yes to targeted benefits for disadvantaged areas, but without new criteria which turn our well-established system upside down!

Finally, dear Gerd Sonnleitner – and all the farmers in the EU agree on this point – no to more unnecessary bureaucracy. Our farmers need to be relieved from red tape!

This is the only way to continue making rural farming possible. And to those who wish to abolish direct payments, let me say this: you are playing with the livelihood of our farmers!

I advocate reliability on this issue. Rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, I intend to complete what I have started – for the benefit of our farmers and our rural areas!

V. New harmony between farmers and consumers

Ladies and gentlemen, 2013 is a special year – it is Carlowitz Year. Our foresters, dear Philipp zu Guttenberg, are familiar with the mining administrator Hans Carl von Carlowitz. Because they live and work according to the same principle that he devised for the German forestry sector exactly 300 years ago, namely sustainable management. For this they deserve the utmost respect!

Our fishermen, too, have long been operating according to the principle of sustainable management. And it works – they are safeguarding the life-sustaining systems for the coming generations of fishermen and consumers!

The situation is the same with our farming community – 81 percent of consumers have very strong or strong confidence in agriculture. Because they know that farmers work with nature and not against it.

At the same time, consumers have expectations of the food sector as a whole which we take seriously. These expectations contain a wish for transparency and "honest" food.

Think about food products that are advertised with a region’s good name. One year ago, I urged for more transparency on this issue. Now the first products with regional labelling have arrived on the shelves. You can now tell where your food comes from. Ladies and gentlemen, this way we’re supporting you as contributors to regional value-added chains!

And think about food which is wasted. This is the labour of your hands, ladies and gentlemen! The entire chain – from the field to the dining table – needs to take responsibility. Dear President Scherb, my particular thanks go to our rural women. 575,000 children received their nutrition certificate from the Evaluation and Information Service AID. These children now value honest food. And they realise that our food is too good for the bin.

Ladies and gentlemen, our food deserves to be properly appreciated. Our food producers deserve to be properly appreciated. Green Week unites farmers and consumers. What we are experiencing here is respect, recognition and a passion for the good things in life. This is where real values are appreciated. These are the signs of a new harmony between farmers and consumers. And I’m delighted to see it!

VI. Conclusion: IGW Opening

Ladies and gentlemen, as I said, nobody ever filled their stomach on words alone. Dinner is served. The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture and the International Green Week 2013 are open!


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