The Food Chain was centre stage for me this week. As someone who grew up on a mixed family farm, I understand that the bottom line comes first. If farmers don't get a fair price for their work - if they can't make a decent living - then we have a real problem. The farmer's share of what EU consumers spend on food is being continuously squeezed, due to the clear imbalance of power between producers and other links of the food supply chain.
In my view, this is simply not good enough. A well-functioning food supply chain is essential for our society. Farming, food processing, retail and food service represent over 44 million jobs in 14 million businesses across the EU. This is one of our biggest employment sectors.
And our consumers can only be guaranteed a sound food supply if farmers are guaranteed a fair share of the pie - a fact President Juncker referred to in his State of the Union Address.
As a response, I decided to set up an Agricultural Markets Task Force.
This group, chaired by former Dutch Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman, started its work in January. It was made up of 12 senior experts with strong expertise from different parts of the food chain.
This week, following several meetings over the course of 2016, the taskforce presented its recommendations. They represent a very welcome addition to the debate on how to strengthen the voice and position of the farmer.
The Task Force's report concludes that the policy framework governing the supply chain "can and should be further improved." Among the other conclusions, the report calls for new rules at EU level to cover certain Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs), as well as the implementation of effective enforcement regimes in Member States such as through the use of an Adjudicator.
Other recommendations include increasing market transparency, enhancing cooperation among farmers, facilitating farmers' access to finance and improving the take-up of risk management tools.
I will now prioritise consideration of the report and its recommendations with a view to delivering the appropriate policy response. The importance of the issue is already acknowledged in the Commission Work Programme for 2017 and the report will play a key role in the delivery of this commitment. My thanks to Professor Veerman and his colleagues for their excellent work.
With former Dutch Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman