The European Commission insists that something must be done about air and soil pollution from the livestock, poultry and pig industry. A spokesperson for the Commission said the Committee on Agriculture's objections to extending the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) are much too exaggerated.
From now on, Brussels wants to include livestock breeding from 150 head of cattle, and tighten the criteria for pig breeding and poultry so that more companies will be included. The European Commission is, however, prepared to make compromises on parts. The Commission denies that there is any question of an imposed regulation: iedereen was allowed to participate in the discussion.
The ENVI Environment Committee of the European Parliament agrees that 'the polluter pays' in these sectors too. The AGRI Agriculture Committee is against the current proposals (as are many EU governments) but the Greens say they will come up with compromise texts in the upcoming trilogue meeting.
In a joint hearing, a spokesman for the European Commission emphasized that livestock farming only concerns the very large livestock farms; at most about fifteen percent. But several MEPs, such as the Dutch CDA member Annie Schreijer-Pierik, pointed out that in some countries with a lot of livestock farming 150 head of cattle is not that big at all.
In addition, virtually all AGRI committee members stumbled over the term 'industrial' in the name of the Directive, as if those three sectors were major industries. The spokesperson for the Commission could only point out that the name of the RIE directive has been around for years and that it now applies to a slightly larger part of the livestock sector. Moreover, the Commission more or less played the ball back by telling MEPs that doing nothing is not a solution.
A frequently heard argument against stricter environmental requirements in agriculture is that the agricultural sector has already reduced a lot of pollution in many areas. The EPP Christian Democrats therefore even think that new environmental requirements should be stopped for the time being. But the Commission points out that nitrate pollution has not been reduced for decades.
The main objective of the RIE (that in a few years' time the industry will be obliged to use the most available modern techniques) has also been met with a lot of criticism. That will be very different for a small pig farmer in Cyprus than for a large pig farm in Germany or Spain, it was noted.
The Dutch SGP member Bert-Jan Ruissen told his colleagues that environmental policy in agriculture might have to be taken on a completely different tack: that the EU no longer prescribes a means, a technique, but a goal. And that the farmer himself – within the law – finds the means to achieve that goal. 'That does mean that we also have to include animal welfare, the environment and climate in the calculations of those goals,' he warned.