The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, along with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment, Isabel García Tejerina, today visited the “Cooperativa Ganadera del Valle de los Pedroches” (COVAP), in Pozoblanco (Cordoba), as well as two pastureland farms with free-range livestock.
The commissioner and the minister have been received by COVAP representatives at their dairy plants, which process more than 320 million liters a year, an activity that represents 50% of the company turnover and “is the economic and social development flag of the northern part of the province.”
From there they visited the pasturelands, an agri-farming system that the commissioner wanted to get to know first-hand. He had the opportunity to visit two extensive cattle and Iberian Pig farms located in the significant pasturelands of the region of Los Pedroches, with 300,000 hectares and a high density of oaks and quality fruits. Hogan clearly understood the extraordinary rich economic, social, environmental and cultural heritage that this agri-farming ecosystem represents for the villages of this region.
Before attending a business lunch and exchanging views on the reality of the pasturelands and COVAP’s cooperative model, the guests visited one of the natural curing houses where the Cooperative has thousands of 100% acorn-fed Iberian hams stored. These are the so-called pata negra hams, a reference to the animals' black trotters, which have the full backing of COVAP and its partners and of the Designation of Origin (PDO) Los Pedroches.
Commissioner Hogan took a keen interest in COVAP's cooperative model and expressed his congratulations for the efforts made over the past 60 years, by the Cooperative's livestock partners and their employees, to add value to dairy and meat production through a "excellent level of integration" in terms of transformation and commercialization of the production, making their farms economically and socially sustainable. He was greatly impressed by the extensive development of the dairy sector in a region so far away from traditional milk-producing areas.
The President of COVAP, Ricardo Delgado Vizcaíno, was pleased and thanked the Minister of Agriculture for “having the chance to explain to the European Commissioner, on the ground, that the pasturelands are a unique farming system that supports a large part of the economy of Los Pedroches, with extensive cattle, sheep and Iberian Pig farms, which, while respecting environmental and animal welfare, benefit both from the fruits of the permanent crops (the oaks) and the pastures, taking great care with pruning and rotation of grazing.”
Delgado Vizcaíno added that “the European Agriculture representative has seen that the existence of trees not only does not reduce or diminish the grasses of the pasturelands, but actually enriches and protects them. We have therefore conveyed to him that it makes no sense to apply the grazing admissibility coefficient. We also believe there is a need to change the current status of the pasturelands as a forest system and to recognize them for what they really are – an agri-farming system that truly belongs in the group of permanent crops.”