The Battle Over EU's Farm to Fork Strategy

An official with the European Union on Friday defended the EU's push to reduce fertilizers and other chemical inputs in European agricultural production against USDA criticism that the plan would reduce EU agricultural production and drive up global food prices.

The EU Farm to Fork Strategy potentially sets up a long-term battle between the U.S. and Europe over farm practices, biotechnology, chemical use and sustainability measures that will spill over into trade.

European Union officials held a press web event Friday with U.S. journalists to discuss the Farm to Fork Strategy, which has come under heavy criticism over the past several months from top officials at both USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative's office. U.S. officials have described the plan as "anti-technology" and an attack on U.S. agriculture.

The Farm to Fork Strategy is directly tied into the EU Green Deal, which the European Commission describes as its "growth strategy that strives to make the continent carbon neutral by 2050." The Farm to Fork plan drives to reduce pesticide use by EU farmers by as much as 50% and reduce fertilizer use by 20%. In livestock, the plan focuses on reducing antimicrobial use by 50% as well. The EU strategy also calls for further reduction in land for crop use, idling as much as 10% of existing farmland as well. The plan also calls for transitioning as much as 25% of European farmland into organic production.

USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) released its analysis of the Farm to Fork plan earlier this month. The analysis concluded that input reductions would lower EU farmers' production by a range of 7% to 12% and affect their competitiveness in both domestic and global markets. ERS stated that adoption of the strategies for lower inputs "would have impacts that stretch beyond the EU, driving up worldwide food prices by 9% if only the EU adopted the plan," but prices would drive up significantly higher if the plan were adopted globally. Under a global scenario, ERS stated production would fall 11% and prices would rise 89%.

Yet, under the ERS analysis, farm income globally also would rise if every country adopted the Farm to Fork strategy. ERS forecasts gross farm income also would rise 17%, including a 34.2% increase in the U.S. and a 25% increase in Canada. EU farmers would see a 14.6% increase in gross income, according to the ERS analysis.

Globally, if every country adopted a Farm to Fork plan, food would rise per-capita $450, with a $512 increase in prices in the U.S. ERS also forecasts that 185 million more people would become food insecure under the plan with the biggest impacts in Africa and parts of Asia.

The EU, though, also acknowledges within Europe that the plan is meant to change diets. Much like the U.S., the EU has problems with people who cannot afford healthy food while roughly 20% of food it wasted. Europe, much like the U.S., also has more than half of the adult population considered overweight. Part of the goal in the EU plan is to improve Europe's dietary standards.