EU ambassadors come up with a compromise on RIE livestock farming

Ambassadors of the EU countries have prepared a compromise text for tightening air pollution from livestock farming. This should pave the way for an agreement between the environment ministers and the agriculture ministers.

More reduction of air pollution is on the agenda of the EU Environment Ministers this week. Their AGRI Agriculture colleagues are pushing for relaxation and have not yet agreed to it.

The European Commission also wants to apply the industrial emissions scheme (RIE) to large livestock farms. Initially, the Commission claimed that it concerned only the very large companies in the beef, pig and poultry sector. Subsequently, it turned out that Brussels was based on outdated figures, so that more companies would have to deal with them.

The compromise now being prepared by diplomats is twofold: it proposes to apply the RIE rules only to intensive livestock farming and thus to leave out extensive farms. This is in line with what Agriculture Commissioner Janus Wojciechowski thinks: that the main focus should be on the way in which a (small) agricultural company works. Small livestock farms should not fall under the rules for large 'industrial' agricultural companies.

In addition, a much more phased introduction of the minimum number of animals that will apply to the new criteria is now proposed. The compromise text proposes to stagger the rollout of the IED based on the size of the livestock farm.

The directive would only come into force in four years' time for livestock farms with a capacity of 600 large livestock units or more, within five years for farms of 400 or more head of livestock and within five to six years for those with a capacity of 250 or more livestock units. In this way, most companies would be better prepared for the fact that they have to take measures against air pollution.

The compromise recognizes that keeping pigs, poultry and cattle causes significant air and soil pollution, but proposes to exclude extensive farms. According to the authors, these “make a positive contribution to the preservation of landscapes, the prevention of forest fires and the protection of biological diversity and habitats”.

Extensive agriculture mainly depends on natural or semi-natural grassland, specifies the text leaked this week by Euractiv.