Immersed in German Agriculture
Although the official McCloy Fellowship has ended and we have returned to our lives back in the states, I would like to continue a few more blogs on some of the interesting topics presented to us.
The last leg of the experience brought us to Berlin, home of the DBV (German Farmer’s Association). We spent a couple days just meeting with their team as well as other organizations, including the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).
Colorado native Paul Spencer is the Agriculture Counselor for USDA FAS in Germany and is based at the U.S. Embassy. After spending several years in Japan with the same position, he transitioned to Germany just a few weeks ago.
The U.S. ships $1.7 billion to Germany. Deutschland is the biggest market for U.S. almonds.
The FAS has three main areas of involvement here:
1. Marketing – The biannual trade show Anuga is the world’s largest food show, and is located in Germany.
2. Policy – Although most policy is set in Brussels, the FAS works to resolve any trade issues at the port that might come up. The U.S. has just begun shipping corn to Germany for the first time in years.
3. Reporting – a country and EU wide report on commodities and bio-fuels is generated through the FAS office.
One of allybiggest issues currently on the table is that of GM (genetically modified). Mr. Spencer quoted a newly released survey that 19% of Germans are identifying themselves with the Green party, which is a significant increase over the past year.
Although the ultra-sensitive testing machines at the German ports might pick up a hint of unapproved corn dust in a shipment of soybeans, which recently happened, Mr. Spencer thinks it’s time to move past the genetically modified debate.
“Europe has lost the GMO debate. It’s over,” Spencer said. “Even China is working on it now.”
The German Farmer’s Association wants the debate separated into 3 areas:
1. seeding and raising of GMO (which is banned here)
2. Import of GMO feedstuffs which they are working on because a few varieties are allowed. Germany imports quite a few feedstuffs as well.
3. Labeling of meat from a GMO feed
Also, the many biogas plants we saw as part of a farm were part of a new energy policy that is not related to agriculture, which much of the development in Europe is based on incentives.
“Think about how much freedom farmers here give up to get a fair amount of support from the government,” Spencer said.
On the other side, Germany is renowned for great technology, which farmers are using to decrease labor cost, such as with robotic milkers.
Next year, the EU will begin a free market labor worker program, where anyone from an EU country can stay as long as they would like. Currently, mainly Polish workers make up the agriculture labor force. So ag leader are anxious to see if those workers look for more stable, less strenuous jobs.
Currently the Foreign Agriculture Service office in Germany has 4 employees, and the only US citizen there is Mr. Spencer. Twenty years ago the office had a staff of 20. Now, more and more staff are being moved from Europe to markets in Asia and India.
After our meeting, we were guests at the German Farmer’s Association Grummetfest. It’s a post-summer get-together for all Members of Parliament and their staff. Even Germany’s Minister of Agriculture attended.
To read more about Jeff's trip as a AFBF McCloy Fellow, visit: http://www.kfb.org/germany/
For information about the following organizations, you can log onto their websites linked below
American Council on Germany
American Farm Bureau
Kansas Farm Bureau YF&R