Monday, 6 November 2018, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) held a public debate on cooperation models to strengthen the position of farmers in the food supply chain.

The debate focused particularly on the dairy sector and followed up on the Report on Unfair Practices in the Food Supply Chain, which was adopted at last the plenary session.
The talks were opened by Dr. Robert Zampieri, director of Bergmilch Südtirol, Italy, who discussed the role of processor cooperatives for small dairy farms in mountain areas and stressed the importance of small farms and cooperatives. Of course, he presented the situation of Italian dairy farmers in the alpine areas.

William Irvine, from the Ulster Farmers’ Union, UK, analyzed what Brexit means for the dairy sector in Northern Ireland. He began by expressing his hope that Britain would reach an agreement with the European Union. He presented the delicate issue of the border with Northern Ireland and Ireland (which will remain in the EU) and argued that for the welfare of farmers an agreement is needed that would allow the free circulation of dairy products across the border after Brexit.

The second part of the debate focused on the situation of farmers in other sectors. Domenico Annicchiarico, CEO of Pomgrana, the Italian cooperative society, presented examples of cooperative models in the fruit and vegetables sector. Co-operatives, exchanges of good practices and operational programs have been presented as beneficial to farmers.
Similar ideas have been highlighted by Michiel van Galen, an expert in the markets and supply, innovation and competition markets in the Netherlands. He also addressed the issue of differences between EU recognized and unrecognized producer organizations, most EU organizations being unrecognized.

The position of farmers in the food supply chain, irrespective of their sector of activity, must certainly be strengthened. Both the Union and the Member States must strive to support farmers, their bargaining power over other operators in the supply chain and their well-being, which, after all, we all depend on.

For details, see the record of the debate on the European Parliament website: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20181105-1500-COMMITTEE-AGRI