Max Schulman from Finland serves as Chairman of the Cereals Working Party at Copa-Cogeca, an organisation that represents 15 million farmers and cooperatives in the European Union.
What is the current state of European farming?
“Farmers face a lot of challenges, just like all entrepreneurs, but we are moving in the right direction. The biggest risks that farmers are facing are the weather, the markets and politicians. Political changes are the hardest of these to control, as changes to the weather and market conditions can be anticipated through insurance policies, futures and other means, but there is no insurance policy against political change. At Copa-Cogeca we work to influence the preparation of legislation, subsidy policies, trade policies and co-operation throughout the industry.”
How did you become Chairman of the Cereals Working Party at Copa-Cogeca?
“Finland is by no means the biggest agricultural producer in Europe, but we are considered neutral in many issues. Our deputy chairmen are from Germany and Great Britain. On a personal level I have always tried to work well together with all parties.”
You are also Secretary for Cereals at the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) in Finland, plus you run your family farm. How do you combine all three jobs?
“It requires long working hours sometimes. My position at MTK is my main job for which I am paid a salary. My position at Copa-Cogeca is an honorary one that counts as working hours at MTK. Farming comes on top. For example, in summertime I went out at four in the morning to spray the crops, then flew to Brussels for a meeting at ten and then returned to continue spraying before midnight.
How does the future of European farming look?
“European farming has traditionally been the most efficient in the world, and we have excellent know-how, machinery, yields, markets and so on, but now other regions – such as North and South America and Australia – have caught up with us. In emerging economies, such as China and India, agriculture is seen as an important opportunity, source of raw materials, employer, energy source and enabler of food self sufficiency. In Europe some politicians have considered agriculture to be a sunset industry and forgotten that we all need to eat every day. At Copa-Cogeca we are trying to change this way of thinking.”