Ahead of the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, we spoke to Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General at Copa-Cogeca about supporting European farmers, adapting the Farm to Fork Strategy goals and transforming the animal agriculture industry.

Pekka Pesonen - Copa-Cocega - Aimal AgTech Innovation Summit
Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General, COPA-COGECA

Tell us how your organisation supports European farmers and what are the biggest challenges you face?
Together with our national member organisations, we promote European farmers and their cooperatives and their views in all relevant EU policy areas. Increasingly, it is about the farming reality, about how our daily food is being produced and how the market works. Producing high quality, nutritious, affordable, safe, and increasingly sustainable food calls for farmers’ long-term commitment and investments in technology, processing, marketing, and constant improvement to maintain our competitiveness in the open market. Less public support and higher requirements on production standards ask for more market-based income to motivate new generations to our sector. We agree with the European Green Deal (the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies in particular) principles, but the Commission has clearly failed to provide the means how to do it. This is underlined by recent studies.

How are you helping farmers adapt to the Farm to Fork strategy goals, whilst also ensuring their economic growth?
We promote fair, transparent, and a balanced agri-food value chain. We push for EU authorisation of safe technologies and innovative solutions. We fight for new economic opportunities to valorise agri-food-fibre products within circular economy. We call for consistency across the relevant EU policy areas, on trade. And we support sufficient EU resources to be made available to make the necessary investments and commitments.

To modernize the animal agriculture industry, where are you investing most of your time in terms of technology and innovation?
Fair, transparent, and balanced agri-food value chain is by far the most important area of activity. This means market analysis, EU market management, investments, technologies, and consumer orientation. However, it is important to note that this is not a linear, one-direction evolution. The understanding of the market reality is not at very high level. For instance, the link with higher animal welfare and health with the necessary investments and consequent structural change – even concentration – is not very well understood. This is a challenge in keeping our competitiveness in the more open marketplace.

What connections are important for you to make at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, and how does connection and partnership benefit your own organisation and the industry at large?
It is about safe technologies that the consumers accept. This is a real driving force for us. Animal production sectors have shown remarkable improvement in their performance over the last decades. Productivity gains have lowered environmental footprint that most likely now needs to be complemented by improvements in areas such as resilience and maintenance of genetic resources. In Copa-Cogeca, we have no reason to expect that the European animal production surrenders to the challenges that we are facing today. We join forces with our partners in other international associations to influence our decision makers for a better future for us all.

We’re excited to welcome Pekka to the virtual summit in October – join the Opening Panel on ‘Innovating towards Carbon-Smart Farming in the Race to Net Zero’ on October 19 at 13.10 CEST.

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