Sunday, September 27, 2009


On Thursday, September 17th we took the train from Brussels, Belgium to Heidelberg, Germany. When we arrived in Heidelberg we had time to visit Heidelberg Castle. This is an amazing place. Most of the castle is in ruins. It was destroyed by the French in the late 17th century. Despite this, it is a beautiful place and I can't even begin to imagine how grand it was in its era. Below are a couple pictures taken in the castle's courtyard. There are many more pictures at the Fellowship Photos link on the right side of this page.

The picture below was taken from the castle looking back down toward the Neckar River that runs through Heidelberg.

The next day we were picked up by Ines Tesch. She was a McCloy Fellow and traveled to the U.S. in 2007. She now works for BASF in their Global Public/Government Affairs Department for their Crop Protection Division. She and her boss Rainer von Mielecki talked to us about BASF and their strategy for dealing with issues that arise in their business. They seem to have an effective way of dealing with potential public relations problems. They gave us several brochures that they have developed including one I really like called "Agricultural Policy Debate - A business based on fear: the bio-wave." We ate lunch at their restaurant. Then we visited Hunger's Hofladle which is a vegetable grower with direct marketing to the public. He is especially known for white asparagus in the spring but he grows a number of other vegetables, including tomatoes (second picture below), that are marketed in his own store (first picture below) and in local supermarkets (third picture below) which we stopped at before going to the train station.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brussels, Belgium

We arrived in Brussels on Monday evening and checked in at Hotel Bedford. We then went to the offices of the DBV in Brussels and met Hinnerk Winterberg. He is the one who organized our whole trip and will be with us for our time in Brussels. We all went to dinner at a nice French restaurant. The next morning Klaus guided us on the walk from our hotel to the DBV office. This was the first of many long walks that we would take in Brussels. My feet and legs are completely worn out.

When we arrived at the office we said goodbye to Klaus. Hinnerk started by giving us a presentation about how the European Union government works. The European Parliment, which is in some ways similar to our House of Representatives, has 736 members who are elected in their home countries. They vote on proposals. The European Commission which has 27 members could be compared to our Senate from the standpoint that each country has 1 member no matter the size of the country but they function more like our cabinet secretaries. Each member/country has responsibility for a certian topic (ex. Germany - Industry and Denmark - Agriculture). They propose legislation. There is also the Council of Ministers which consists of the relevant cabinet minister from each country for the issue being discussed (ex. if agriculture policy is being discussed the Agriculture minister from each country would come to Brussels). They also vote on proposed legislation. Occasionally, the European Union Council meets to discuss large issues, it is comprised of the heads of state from each member county. This is when I began to realize that the politician per capita rate in Europe is extremely high.

Next we heard a presentation by Tiffanie Stephani. She handles environmental affairs for the DBV in Brussels. She told us that the European Union has the highest environmental standards in the world. 99% of the German public believe that climate change is caused by human activity. Today's main priorities are combating climate change, preserving biodiversity and using natural resources more responsibility. Agriculture is currently exempt from their climate change regulations and there is no agricultural carbon credit trading system in Germany. The DBV's position is that agriculture should remain exempt. They believe that solutions exist but incentitives are necessary. These include reducing GHG emissions in crop & livestock production, reducing energy use in the agricultural sector, improving carbon sequestration of soils (grassland & afforestation) and production of renewable energies (biogas, biofuel, biomass). In the international climate negotiations DBV is advocating for a moderation of international accounting rules and mitigation options with multiple environmental benefits. They are against clear emissions reduction targets for agriculture and the inclusion of agriculture in the emission trading scheme.

We next talked a little about EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The current structure of CAP started in 2003. Germany has phased in their direct payments over a number of years but in 2012 all German farmers will receive the same amount per hectare. That amount is €340 per hectare. At current exchange rates that is about $200 per acre for every acre they own regardless of its use. This includes all land no matter what crop is grown on it, if it is pasture or if it has buildings on it, everything is included. This makes the program completely WTO friendly because it has no influence on the production or price of any commodity. In order to get these direct payments the farmers must be part of the cross compliance system. In Cross Compliance farmers comply with basic standards and requirements while producing food for European and worldwide consumption. Cross Compliance includes two elements. First, statutory management requirements (18 legislative standards) involving environment, food safety, animal and plant health and animal welfare. Second, the obligation of keeping land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions which refers to standards related to soil protection, maintenance of soil organic matter and structure, avoiding the deteration of habitats and water management. This figures into the discussion of sustanability of the food chain. As another part of that discussion the DBV believes that the CO2 Footprint is leading nowhere but just misleading consumers. DBV is raising consumers' awareness for a healthy and balanced diet based on regional and seasonal products. They also believe that calls for reduction of consumption of meat and milk products in the EU don't help.

Our next topic of discussion was protection of natural resources. This includes soil protection, biodiversity protection and water protection. In 2006 there was a proposal to create a European framework for soil protection. The proposal was rejected but it is still on the table. the DBV opposes it sighting the sucessful implementation of German national strategy and unnecessary bureaucracy for MS & farm businesses. There is an EU Action Plan to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. Natura 2000 established protection areas for fauna and flora in the 1990's to assure the long-term survival of the EU's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. The DBV calls for stronger cooperation between all stakeholders. The Water Framework Directive from 2000 protects all waters (rivers, lakes, costal waters) & groundwaters. There are ambitous targets like all waters have to meet "good status" by 2015. The DBV thinks solutions that are ecologically and economically sustainable have to be found and farmers can not be the only one who supports the burden of implementation of this huge piece of legislation.

Tiffanie's final conclusions were interesting:
-Huge challenges ahead of us!
- Climate change, food security and energy security need to be seen as convergent drivers of sustainable production.
- Food is essential and should not be considered simply as another commodity!
- FAO: World food demand will increase whilst the production capacity in many countries will be seriously jeopardised.
-Agriculture is an industry of the future!
- Agriculture has a strategic importance.
- Crucial needs for more research and investment in agriculture.
- Only way to solve the problem is to develop EU's agricultural production potential through increased productivity while respecting natural resources.

Next we went to the European Parliament for a guided tour by Julian Bocker. He is a staffer for a German member of the European Parliament. After we had our visitor passes made he showed us around the parliament building. Below is a picture of the exterior of the parliament and a picture of the parliament chamber. We ate lunch in the cafeteria.

Next we had a guided walking tour of Brussels. It is a very historic and beautiful city. The picture below is the Palais Royal.

We stopped at Wittamer Chocolates, one of the many famous chocolate shops in Brussels. I bought a small box to bring home.

The statue below is know as Manneken Pis. Somehow he has become the symbol of the city of Brussels.
The picture below is one of the guild houses that surround the main square, known as La Grand Place.
That evening we had dinner with Debra Henke, Agricultural Minister Counselor for the U.S. Mission to the EU. She has had a very interesting career, including time in East Germany during the cold war. We had a really good discussion about many trade issues that the U.S. has with the EU, including GMOs, hormones in beef and poultry restrictions.
The next day Hinnerk met us at the hotel and we walked a different route through the city to our first meeting which was at COPA-COGECA which is an alliance of farm organizations and farm cooperatives from all of the EU nations. Shelby Owens Matthews told us about the organization and some of the challenges that they face in representing such a diverse membership. Our next appointment canceled so we had a short break before our next meeting.
After lunch we met with Dr. Martin Scheele, Head of Unit, Environment, GMO, and genetic resources for the European Commission Director General for Agriculture and Rural Development. His department works to preserve genetic diversity of plants and animals. With GMOs they just monitor what the environment and consumer agencies propose. We also talked about intergrating environment into CAP and payments for environmental service. He walked us through the history of EU agricultural policy. In the 60s & 70s they had price supports and protectionist policies. Later in the 70s there was more investment in capital. In the 80s there was more supply management with quotas and setasides. In the 90s they started the current 2 part system. The first part was direct payments but at that time they were still commodity specific. Beef and sheep used to get payments as well as crops. The second part included capital investment, marketing, processing, direct marketing, agritourism, and preservation of historic and attractive thinks, like hedgerows. In 2003, the direct payments were decoupled from production and each nations payments were based on historical entitlements. More money was also given to rural development. The hottest topic right now is the end of the Dairy Quota in 2015. 38% of the EU budget goes to agriculture. It takes 4 years in the political process to clear a GMO variety, this is after all of the testing has been done and it has been cleared in other countries. The authorization process needs to speed-up and there needs to be a technical solution to low level tolerance. The current zero tolerance rule is becoming a problem for the livestock industry in the EU.
Next we took the train to Leuven and then a taxi to a dairy farm in Lubbeek. This farmer has recently built a new dairy barn with a robot milker. He is very happy with this new system and has had better milk yields with less labor than before. The government pays for around 25% of the construction costs when you build new facilities. He now has more time for the other parts of his farm which include sugar beets, wheat and corn silage. Below is a picture of his robot milker.
When we returned to Leuven we took a walk around the town. It is a really pretty place as you can see from the picture below.

When we returned to Brussels we had dinner with Alois Bauer who is head of the German unit for food, agriculture and consumer protection at the European Parliment. He had just come from Sweden where he was attending a EU meeting. We had a nice discussion over dinner. The next morning we left Brussels by train.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


On Monday, September 14th we checked out of our hotel in Bonn and were picked up by Dr. Klaus Lotz. Our first stop of the day was at Klaus' home where we met his wife and looked at her pottery studio. She gave us each a piece of her handmade pottery. I know that I will treasure the bowl that she gave me. It is beautiful and means a lot to me because I met her and her husband was so wonderful to show us around. We then walked down their street to a small market that is owned by an apple grower. She showed us around and let us taste all of the different varieties of apples that they grow and sell. Below is a picture from the market.

Since Steve is the owner of a garden center, we stopped at a nice garden center on our way from Bonn to Cologne. It was a very nice place with beautiful displays. Below is a photo of a beautiful orchid that I took there.

We stopped in Cologne for a visit to the Cologne Cathedral. This is an amazing example of Gothic architecture. My pictures don't do it justice, there wasn't anyway that I could get back far enough to photograph the whole thing at once. It houses relics from the Three Magi and therefore has been an important pilgrimage site since 1164. The current cathedral was built beginning in 1248 and not completed until 1880. It is under constant renovation as you can see from the scaffolding in the pictures below. The dark color of the cathedral is caused by polution. We hiked up the more than 500 narrow, steep steps to the top of one of the two tall towers. Klaus said that we are the first McCloy Fellows group to do this. He was very impressed. I was more impressed with him, he is 71 years old and has met ever McCloy Agriculture group from the U.S. and he outpaced all of us on the way up the stairs. The view from the top of the cathedral was good but I was amazed and saddened by all of the graffiti covering the walls in the staircase. There is graffiti everywhere here including on historical buildings and pieces of public art. There are many more pictures of the cathedral at the fellowship photos link on the right side of my blog.

After visiting the cathedral we ate lunch at a local restaurant and bar and then headed for Brussels, Belgium. Klaus let Steve drive for a while after we got into Belgium.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Weekend - Bonn

I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at about 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 12th. I made my way to the meeting point in Terminal 1 of the airport where I met another member of my group, Julie Baker Richard of Louisiana. We waited quite a while for the other two McCloy Fellows, Steve McShane of California and Marjorie Browning of Pennsylvania. We then went to the train station to catch our train to Bonn. The train ride took us through the Rhine Valley and there were some beautiful views. When we arrived in Bonn we were suppose to ride a bus to our hotel. This proved a challenge but we finally found the right bus and made it to the Andreas Hermes Akademie, which is owned by the Deutscher Bauernverband (DBV), the German Farmers Organization. After a short break for a quick shower, we went to dinner with Dr. Klaus-Martin Lotz and Willi Kampmann. They were wonderful hosts and took us to K. und K. im Weinhauschen at the Rhine River. The food was very good and we had a lively policy discussion over dinner.

On Sunday, Dr. Klaus-Martin Lotz picked us up at 9 a.m. and we drove to Eltz Castle. The castle has never seen destruction and is still very original to the way it was originally built. It is a beautiful place and sits by itself in a wooded area. We were given a English language guided tour. There are several more pictures from the castle available at the Fellowship Pictures link on the right hand side of this page. Unfortunately there was some renovation work going on and there is scaffolding in the pictures.

After leaving the castle we visited the home of a friend of Dr. Lotz in the nearby town of Munstermaifeld. This gentleman spent many years as caretaker of the castle and helped to renovate it and open the castle to the public. He and his wife showed us great hospitality and served us a local sparkling wine. Below is a photo of their home.

They also took us to see their local catholic church which is very old and very beautiful. There are also many more pictures of the church at the Fellowship Pictures link. I am sorry that the picture below is sideways but I couldn't figure out how to turn it.

We ate lunch at Loffel's Landhaus. They specialize in potato dishes because this town is known for potatoes. Our lunch was delicious with very large portions. After lunch we drove back towards Bonn and attended a band concert in which Klaus was preforming. It was a very pleasant afternoon and everyone made us feel very welcome.
Tomorrow Klaus will pick us up again and we will visit Cologne before we drive to Brussels, Belgium tomorrow evening. I will post again soon.