Progress is being made towards land access – and against land concentration – in the EU, with a consultation by the Finance Directorate General. DG FISMA (tasked with Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets in the EU) is conducting a consultation on legal means of regulating access to land in accordance with EU legislation. You can download the DG FISMA consultation document and submit your own feedback. Closing date for submissions is very soon – the 7th July.
In this land access consultation, DG FISMA is threading a fine line between Member State rights and responsibilities, current attitudes to overarching EU legislative initiatives and EU principles which both encourage capital flow and discourage excessive land concentration.
At present, DG FISMA is taking or considering taking six member states to court because of their land laws – Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – while acknowledging the right of member states to restrict EU Freedoms in the public interest.
As we reported on 1st May, this consultation builds upon the Report on Land Concentration (Full title – State of play of farmland concentration in the EU: how to facilitate the access to land for farmers) adopted on 27th April by the European Parliament. This report points out that 3% of farms control just over half of all farmland in the EU.
A key driver in developing the momentum for progress on land access has been Green MEP Maria Heubuch MEP, who commissioned a report by ARC2020’s Benny Haerlin Landrush – the sellout of Europe’s farmland (downloads)
The momentum has been slow and steady for this important topic. As Landrush points out, “with only 5 dissenting votes, the European Economic and Social Committee in January 2015 adopted an own-initiative opinion entitled Land grabbing – A warning for Europe and a threat to family farming. It is noted that a wide cross section of society – “those representing the employers, employees and civil society” almost unanimously agreed on a statement such as:
“The EESC sees a serious risk arising from the concentration of land in the hands of large non-agricultural investors and large agricultural concerns, including in parts of the European Union. This trend is incompatible with the European model of sustainable and multifunctional agriculture where family farms predominate and jeopardises the achievement of the objectives set out in Articles 39 and 191 of the TFEU. It conflicts with the structural goal of dispersed land ownership, causes irreversible damage to rural economic systems and leads to a type of industrialised agriculture that society does not want.”
The Commission is encouraged to “develop a clear model for agricultural structures at both Member State and EU level.”
This is now one step closer.
In May 2015, a study (downloads) by the COMAGRI (the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development) recommended better use of CAP for “targeted support and preferential treatment for small farms, including a cap on direct payments at € 150,000, reallocation of 30 percent of the direct payments to the first several hectares, and further development of the ‘greening’ policies.”
And just last month, an Access to Land conference in Brussels, organised by the access to land network (with Terre en Vue and Terre de Liens being the two lead organising partners) heard in Maria Heubuch’s presentation a number of action possibilities. These included reform of the agricultural statistics. A land observatory was called for by the Parliament. However at the very least, the reform of the agricultural statistics, a framework regulation for Integrated Farm Statistics (downloads) and a second framework regulation for Statistics on Agricultural Input/Output (SAIO) are all in motion. Better transparency of both holdings and ownership structures would lead to improved overall agricultural statistics.
Her presentation also pointed to reform of the young farmers scheme and closer contact between DG FISMA and DG AGRI. Thus far, DG AGRI has been slow to act decisively, despite the fact that “with 80% of the EU subsidies going to only 20% of farms, Commissioner Hogan cannot pretend that the issue of land concentration is not his concern! The issue could be addressed during next CAP reform, Hogan said, through better support for young farmers. But he ignores that he could already act now (statistics regulation; carrying out a consultation procedure; setting up a high-level task force; setting up a land observatory).”
With this consultation on legal means of regulating access to land in accordance with EU legislation, there is a real opportunity to contribute to access to land for smaller scale farmers. Seize the moment! Consultation can be downloaded here.