Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso
The agri-food sector plays a significant role in the EU’s economy, employing close to 50 million people. EU expenditure on ‘food and feed’ aims to contribute to safety along the food chain, mainly by preventing, controlling and eradicating serious pests and diseases, in animals or plants, and strengthening related controls. Key objectives include safeguarding public health and consumers as well as animal and plant health, and protecting the value of economic sectors related to the food chain.
Under the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the financial envelope allocated to food and feed expenditure amounts to €1.89 billion for 2014-20. In May 2014, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council adopted Regulation (EU) No 652/2014 establishing common rules for the management of EU expenditure relating to the food chain, animal health and animal welfare, as well as to plant health and plant reproductive material. The Regulation, which seeks to streamline relevant provisions by amending and repealing many other legal texts, notes that, if resources are insufficient to tackle exceptional emergency situations, additional funding should be mobilised, for example through the special instruments of the EU budget outside the MFF.
Food and feed expenditure is implemented through direct management, mostly by the European Commission and, to a lesser extent, by the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) in Luxembourg. EU financing is available through grants, procurement and voluntary payments to international organisations active in the field.
In recent years, some 80% of the resources allocated to food and feed measures have been used to carry out animal disease eradication and monitoring programmes. The focus is on the prevention and control of some transmissible diseases in animals with a significant economic impact on the farming sector and the related food industry (e.g. swine fever), and of diseases transmissible between animals and humans that may have a severe impact on public health (e.g. avian influenza and salmonellosis). In addition to regular programmes to prevent, control and eradicate these diseases, EU expenditure can co-finance emergency measures in the event of a sudden outbreak of some serious animal diseases. Along similar lines, in the field of phytosanitary measures, both emergency battles against organisms harmful to plants, and regular survey programmes concerning the presence of such pests, are eligible for funding. For all these measures, Member States get EU co-financing through a system of cost reimbursements managed by the European Commission.
Other activities funded by food and feed expenditure include information systems for the rapid exchange of data related to official controls among competent national authorities (e.g. the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, a network that allows information to be shared across borders when risks to public health arise in the food chain, with a view to taking prompt action) and training sessions for Member States’ control staff aimed at ensuring harmonised and efficient controls in these areas across the Union.
In addition to food and feed expenditure proper, other examples of EU action and spending related to this field are the common agricultural policy, which includes clear food safety objectives (e.g. by making the payment of direct aid to farmers conditional on compliance with strict standards) and Horizon 2020, the framework programme financing research and innovation activities, which allocates part of its resources to agriculture- and food-related projects, including food safety. Several EU agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma and the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) in Angers, have been established to carry out different tasks in this policy area.
Read the complete briefing on ‘How the EU budget is spent: Food and feed expenditure‘
or see other publications in our ‘How the EU budget is spent‘ series.