After almost three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am particularly pleased that dialogue, networking and personal encounters are once again fully possible. The year 2023 was framed by a strong DLG Winter Conference and an equally powerful AGRITECHNICA. Both examples show that Germany is lucky to have an agricultural sector like ours. We are overcoming enormous challenges by demonstrably getting better and better at harmonising productivity and yield resilience with resource and climate protection and animal welfare. We live progress! We farmers are in a pole position for innovation and performance thanks to our constant dialogue and engagement with research, development and consulting.
A look of the practice in Europe:
A look at agricultural practice meanwhile reveals major differences between the individual farm sectors. The cold, wet spring made sowing difficult in many places. The harvest was accompanied by heavy rainfall, with corresponding effects: Stored grain. Grain germination on the stalk, quality and yield losses. On the whole, however, arable farming achieved good results.
The general mood in cattle farming is positive. Although milk prices have fallen at times and the dependence of farms on the very different competitiveness of dairies has caused displeasure, things are now looking positive again, especially on the spot market.
The last few years have left their mark on pig farming. The total herds and the number of pig farms have fallen significantly following the high feed costs, poor sales and changes in legislation. German piglets are now a rarity. The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture´s mandatory animal husbandry labelling is not really helping either. Reliable framework conditions for investments in sustainable and marketable housing concepts and a credible commitment to exports to China would be helpful instead.
Driven by the challenges of climate change adaptation, CO2 reduction and the preservation of biodiversity, one gets the impression that politicians limit their creativity to bans, restrictions and regulations.
Combining food security with sustainable, resource-conserving production methods is a huge endeavour. Modern agricultural technology, animal husbandry technology, breeding and the input industry have a central role to play in securing the future of the sector. Above all, more innovations are needed that have the potential to harmonise productivity with resource and climate protection globally. And there needs to be encouragement for entrepreneurial initiatives.
Politicians talk a lot about the need for transformation in agriculture. Agriculture is transforming itself, even without politics. We call it development. The same cannot be said of politics. Although the agricultural policy system regularly gives itself the appearance of reform, in reality its transformation is frozen in rituals. The system is clearly not up to the social task of sustainable progress; we need a complete overhaul of the system. Less regulation, but more target-setting with appropriate target control.
The DLG Winter Conference will address precisely this topic. On 20 and 21 February 2024 in Leipzig, Germany, we will put our finger in the wound and discuss how things can be done better "Goals instead of reins: let entrepreneurs do it".
I wish you and your families Happy Holidays and good health, confidence and success for 2024!