Summary of the opinion on the future of livestock production in Germany

Provided by the Scientific Advisory Board on Agricultural Policy on 31 January 2005 and published in Volume 508 (January 2005 issue) of the "Angewandte Wissenschaft" series.

Summary of the Scientific Advisory Board’s recommendations

Livestock production in Germany is faced both with the developments at global and European level and with changes to the framework conditions at regional and local level. The different interests that exist lead to conflicts, primarily in the fields of animal, environmental and consumer protection.

The possibilities to solve these conflicts of aims are very limited and there are usually no simple solutions. It therefore often makes sense to implement policy measures step-by-step and make use of the experiences gained so far to successively readjust the approach taken. It also appears advisable to first test some of the measures in individual regions, accompanied by thorough scientific support. In view of the particular location factors in Germany, it is not advisable to focus on a single overall concept. Instead, it can be assumed that animal production needs rather to become more differentiated and diversified in order to remain competitive and to be able to use the proximity to the domestic sales market as an advantage of the location.

With this in mind, the Scientific Advisory Board recommends the following

concerning the economic environment:

  • When developing national policy measures relating to animal husbandry, care should be taken not to weaken the intra-Community competitiveness of livestock holdings.
  • The actual relevance to competitiveness of the varying national approaches to shaping policy measures and regulatory frameworks should be scientifically examined.
  • Institutional framework conditions should be improved with a view to further differentiating the product range which would allow all commercial operators to adjust their value-adding strategy to the demands of different markets (discount or premium markets with additional product and process quality attributes).
  • Policymakers should actively work towards an investment-friendly climate for livestock production to enable farms with sufficient prospects of coping with the necessary adjustment processes. Although government investment promotion is problematic, it will still be necessary in the immediate future in order to support the considerable structural adjustments which are required to meet the huge changes in the overall situation. It may even be necessary to increase these funds temporarily.
  • As regards the further development of EU agricultural policy, care should be taken to ensure that all direct payments are already completely decoupled from production in all EU Member States by the mid-term review in 2009. The regulations adopted in 2003 and 2004 (partial coupling in many Member States) tend to put suckler cow and cattle fattening farms in Germany at a disadvantage. This leads to distortions of competition within the European single market.
  • With the decoupling of direct payments, the EU made important advance concessions ahead of the current WTO negotiations. The negotiation partners are also called upon to eliminate export subsidies; this request should be complied with. In the field of import protection, on the other hand, the considerable burden of adjustment already facing the European farm sector should be taken into account when determining the tariff reduction steps.

concerning animal health and welfare:

  • When shaping national policy measures relating to animal husbandry, care should be taken not to weaken the intra-Community competitiveness of livestock holdings.
  • Records and notifications on animal stocks, animal movements, diagnostic findings and animal treatments should be further developed to enable the animals to be traced back to the livestock holders. In this context, we should strive to create a nationwide regulation to ensure supra-regional comparability.
  • Monitoring programs should be established within the scope of incentive programs to help improve the recording and documentation of the animals’ health status (e.g. through diagnostic findings on carcasses), return the relevant information to the farmers and improve knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships. The incentive programs under the second pillar should be used to give farmers financial incentives to participate in monitoring programs and provide supplementary farm data. In doing so, agricultural holdings should be divided up into different categories according to the morbidity levels and diagnostic findings; this can then be used as a basis for introducing rehabilitation measures. A comparable concept is already used for salmonellosis control in Danish pig farms.
  • In addition, livestock farmers and relevant organisations that successfully participate in, or develop, programs to improve animal protection and animal health should be supported within the scope of the second pillar.
  • The introduction of testing and approval processes for housing facilities should not be pursued any further. Nevertheless, transparency regarding available test results (DLG, Switzerland, etc.) ought to be ensured within the scope of a central database, for instance. In addition, there should be further development of control options and instruments for the evaluation of animal behaviour and animal health at the farm level.
  • Farmers should be informed on current developments concerning the future requirements for food safety as early and as comprehensively as possible to allow them to adjust to paying greater regard to animal health aspects and to introduce measures to reduce morbidity levels in farm animals.
  • The Federal Government is obliged to formulate concrete implementing rules and guidelines for the primary production sector by the beginning of 2006 in order to implement the provisions laid down in EC food-safety legislation to improve consumer health protection and the precautionary principle as it relates to animal health and welfare. In this context, it is particularly important to develop target definitions and criteria to evaluate the absence of diseases in food-producing animals and the preventive and health status at the production level. It must also be explained in detail how the control of controls will be implemented.
  • In addition, it should be examined to what extent EC Regulations No 178/2002 and No 854/2004, which deal with the absence of specific diseases and the health status of food-producing animals, allow consequences to be derived for the import of products with low food-safety standards, and to what extent this would be compatible with the WTO SPS Agreement.
  • At the breeding and production stages, greater consideration should be given to functional characteristics (e.g. fertility, productive life, morbidity rates). Research projects should examine what relevance these parameters have for profitability and what relevance they would have if the underlying conditions were different.
  • Monitoring programs should be developed to provide farmers with better information on optimized breeding and management and, at the same time, to create more transparency regarding the animal health situation on the farms.

concerning environmental protection:

  • First of all, improvements should be made to the data bases on environmentally harmful substances that are maintained at the farm and sectoral level. Whole-farm nutrient balances, including farm manure and mineral fertilizers, are an important basis in this respect; these balances should therefore be drawn up by all agricultural holdings. Taking data-protection aspects into due consideration, these balances should be presented to the competent authorities and processed there in order to put environmental monitoring on a better foundation.
  • High priority ought to be given to the environmental audits, which are to be introduced under the second pillar of EU agricultural policy. In this context, it should be examined how to maximize the efficiency of this instrument. Gradually, more use should be made of data collected in government-funded audits or environmental information systems for regional, national and international environmental reporting. The government should endeavour to ensure that the different data-collection systems are better coordinated to reduce the effort involved and improve the usability of the indicators.
  • Farmers should be better informed on the consequences of environmental pollution. At the same time, the development of low-emission husbandry practices should be promoted. This should take management into account as well as focusing on technical solutions.
  • Further measures should be examined if the above-mentioned measures are of no avail and technical solutions prove too expensive with the consequence that this would lead e.g. to a sectoral nitrogen surplus remaining too high for several years. The option to increase the price of mineral fertilizers was discussed intensively in 1993 by the Scientific Advisory Board. For the future development of livestock production all over the world, it is necessary that policymakers focus more strongly on the problem of nutrient accumulation, both nationally and internationally.
  • Knowledge should be improved regarding both the extent and effect of emissions from animal husbandry, such as medicinal residues and fine particles, on humans, animals and the environment and the effects of emissions on animal stocks (e.g. dioxin, heavy metals).
  • "Safe spaces" between animal housings and residential buildings should be introduced to protect residents from health hazards. Waste-air filters should be used in critical areas where neighbourhoods have little space.

concerning the regional animal concentration and regions with a low livestock density:

  • As a matter of principle, farms in regions with a high livestock density should not receive investment aid for individual enterprises if this aid would lead to regional animal stocks being increased.
  • In regions with a high livestock density, it should be checked particularly intensively whether the nutrient surpluses recorded in the nutrient balances are correctly disposed of.
  • The livestock holders’ risk awareness should be sharpened regarding animal disease risk. In addition, the insurance situation should be further developed with a view to ensuring that all farm animals are insured and that premiums correspond to actual animal disease risks.
  • The interests of all stakeholders should be analysed and the possibilities of reaching mutual agreement on the investment measures should be examined. Above all, it should be analysed how regions with a successful livestock population development were able to overcome initial resistance.
  • In addition, general improvements should be made to encourage investments to establish animal husbandry in regions with a low livestock density. Particular regard should be given to continuing or extending measures taken under the second pillar that ensure the socially desirable use of low-yielding grassland sites.
  • Furthermore, "round tables" and other forms of participation and mediation should find increasing use for conflict prevention and conflict reduction. Planning and approval procedures should be made more transparent and participation-oriented.

Released as article