Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 4 - Wednesday, September 28

We started the morning by meeting Guido Seedler with the German Cooperatives Federation (DGRV). It is a political association that represents the interest of those within cooperative systems.  This is not limited to the cooperative farms, but also includes ag marketing coops, banks and industrial, which includes varoius craftsman.
Within ag the association represents  834 supply and marketing cooperatives, including diaries, processing,   livestock and meat. The average size of their cooperative farm members is 1,500 hectares that generate  42 billion euro annually.  The cooperative members account for 66% of the milk produced, 50% of the cash crop, 33% of the pigs, 33% of exports, 33% of the wine on only 9% of the agricultural land. The DGRV is located in a beatuifully architectured building near the U.S. Embassy and the Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most well known structures in Germany and Europe. It was the gate to the Prussian empire, has survived many wars and was in 'no man's land' during the cold war. It was near the Berlin wall, so someone would have been putting themselves in harms way if they were where we were standing prior to the wall coming down.
We had a good discussion about a word we've been hearing repeatedly in Berlin: Sustainability.  The word has many different definitions, depending on who you speak with.  Mr. Seedler defined it as part social standards, ecological standards and profitability.  He felt that if you do not include profitability, then sustainability is typically only a marketing program.  We also talked about Germany's energy situation, having just decided to abandon nuclear energy.  He explained that one of the most frustrating pieces of this decision is that their is no open discussion, no debate, no pros and cons. The only thing you hear is cons.
We then had some free time to explore Berlin and shop.
In the afternoon we met with their head of public relations for DVB.  Their current campaign is on freezing the sale of ag land for development.  They lose 95 hectares per day to development. This is partially because of their law; if one hectacre is used for a road, then one hectacre must be set aside for nature.  You cannot touch this land or allow grazing or timber production. I cannot picture a time when our members would be willing to cede their property rights to preserve farm land.
Finally, we attended Grummet Fest which is similar to a program AFBF does where they invited the staff of the members of parliament to their office for food, drink and time to socialize.  It was well attended and we had the opportunity to meet many people who work for parliament and in the partys. 

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