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Leadership Mission on Agricultural Policy in Germany

One major side effect of Russia’s war in Ukraine has been the further disruption of the global agricultural sector. Already before the conflict, agriculture in Europe and the United States faced major challenges – from climate change to a lack of biodiversity and from economic strains to trade conflicts and supply chain disruptions.

From November 13 to 20, the ACG’s Leadership Mission on Agriculture Policy and Resource Scarcity gave American agriculture experts and practitioners from the State of Georgia an in-depth look at agricultural policies, farming, and food-supply conditions in Germany. This project was generously supported by The Halle Foundation and was organized in partnership with the Deutscher Bauernverband (DBV), the German Farmers’ Association.

The week-long program was divided into two segments: The delegation began in Berlin for a series of policy discussions and then visited farms and production plants to receive a first-hand look at farming in Germany. Throughout the week, conversations centered on food security as an important national security concern.

Beginning on the afternoon of November 13, the delegation of nine farmers and agricultural experts from across the State of Georgia met at the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (or Berlin Wall Memorial). During a guided tour by Anton Bloeth (2006 ACG McCloy Fellow in Agriculture), the group learned of the importance of unification and the impact it continues to have today. Mr. Bloeth is among the founders of FriedensBrot e.V., a nonprofit that promotes peace through farming.

At a dinner organized by the Bauernverband, the group continued the discussion of the difference between East and West Germany’s agriculture with members of the organization’s staff, including Udo Hemmerling (2002 ACG McCloy Fellow in Agriculture), Deputy Secretary General; Theresa Kräter, Sustainability Policy Advisor; Dr. Anni Neu, PR Advisor; and Christian Gaebel (2015 ACG McCloy Fellow in Agriculture), Common Agriculture Policy Advisor.

On the morning of November 14, the group gathered at the offices of the DBV for meetings with Deputy Secretary General Gerald Dohme and Secretary General Bernhard Krüsken. They discussed how regulations made at the EU level impact farming in Germany, including climate change policies and animal welfare conditions.

In the afternoon, the group met with Patrick Wettemann, who serves as an advisor in the Department of Food and Agriculture at the Federal Chancellery. He discussed the federal government’s role in making new regulations in agriculture policy. The group then had meetings with members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who work within the Foreign Agricultural Service at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. Agricultural Attaché Kirsten Luxbacher and Agricultural Specialists Sabine Lieberz and Leif Erik Rehder discussed transatlantic trade policies and American crops which are sold in Germany, including pecans from the state of Georgia.

On the morning of November 15, the group met with policy advisors at the DBV to discuss arable crops, dairy and livestock, and sustainability. During discussions, the farmers from Georgia saw similarities between agricultural policies in Germany and the United States.

That afternoon, the group met with Guido Seedler (2005 ACG McCloy Fellow in Agriculture), Head of the Department of Grain, Oilseeds, Energy, and Sustainability at the Deutscher Raiffeisenverband e.V., a German farming cooperative. Most farms in Germany are part of cooperatives which allows farmers to protect the cost and value of their crops.

The last policy meeting in Berlin was with Avril Gommard, the Agricultural Attaché at the Embassy of France in Berlin. She provided the group with a wider understanding of EU policy and trade policy between other EU nations. The partnership between agricultural industries in France and Germany is integral to farming in the EU.

On Wednesday, November 16, the group had the opportunity to attend EuroTier, the largest European convention for animal farming, dairy, and ranching. The group learned about the latest technology in animal farming, including dairy processing, data tracking systems, and sustainable farming techniques.

That evening, the group transferred to Jena, in the Free State of Thuringia (in the former GDR), for a discussion and dinner with Dr. Lars Fliege, who serves as the Vice President of the Thuringia Farmer’s Association. Dr. Fliege discussed the growing divide between urban and rural and the general public’s often a misunderstanding of modern farming.

As sustainability becomes increasingly important for agriculture, the delegation visited two farms that put sustainability front and center of their production on November 17. The dairy farm Woellmisse Schoelben e.G. functions are a zero-waste farm. With some 2000 cows on the farm, it can produce enough biogas to provide energy for the farm and the surrounding town. The Agrargenossenschaft Teichel e.G. was at the forefront of dairy production as being the first dairy farm to have a fully automated milking system.

After transferring to the State of Hesse, on November 18, the group met with representatives of Vereinigte Hagel. This insurance company uses cutting-edge technology to track weather to prevent the loss of crops due to climate change. Nearly 1000 farms in Germany have installed weather stations that allow farmers to receive hyper-local forecasts.

That afternoon, the group met with Reichhardt GmbH, which produces technology for smart farming, including automated systems for tractors. As a sort of start-up incubator, Reichhardt works alongside engineers and scientists to create systems to reduce the environmental impact of farming.

On the final day of the program, the delegation traveled to the State of Rheinland-Pfalz to learn about sugar beet production and processing at the Südzucker AG plant in Offstein. This plant produces some 200 million tons of sugar annually, as well as cattle feed from sugar beet waste. Although constantly working, the plant has seen a dramatic decrease in beet production due to massive droughts in the region from climate change.

In the afternoon, the group visited one last farm – the Meilinger Hof in Hesse. Owned by Thomas Kunz, who serves as the President of the Hessen Farmers’ Association, the large family-owned farm produces grains, cattle, and pigs. During the pandemic, Mr. Kunz opened a direct marketing and butcher shop to provide consumers with better access to quality products – a trend seen in both Germany and the United States.

After an intense week of meetings, the delegation returned home on November 20. Throughout the week, there were many resounding themes, from the impact of climate change to the similarities between the two countries. However, the most critical for the group and the many meeting partners was the need for there to be agricultural representation at all levels of government because if policymakers do not understand how food is produced, food security is at stake.

List of Participants:

Natalie Adan
Food Safety Division Director
Georgia Department of Agriculture
Lilburn, GA

Ward Black
Commercial and Agriculture Lead
Georgia Soil Company
Commerce, GA

Jessica Bolesta
Business Owner and Operator
Raisin-Cane, LLC
Valdosta, GA

Ricky Dollison Jr.
Dollison Farms
Poulan, GA

Kenneth Ford Jr.
Agricultural Teacher
Future Farmers of America Advisor, Farmer Thomson Middle School
Warner Robins, GA

Russ Goodman
Georgia State Senator and Farmer
Cogdell Berry Farm/Great American Cobbler
Homerville, GA

Caroline Lewallen
Owner, Lead Steakholder
teXga Farms
Clarkesville, GA

Beth Oleson
Director of Education and Food Safety
Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
LaGrange, GA

Sam Watson
Georgia State Representative and Farmer
Chill C Farms
Moultrie, GA