Brussels July 22 Bulletin – there are always exceptions

Post Agriculture and Fisheries Council press conference July 18 2022 photo (c) European Union

Before the summer break, Brussels and beyond is still bustling. This round-up includes an open letter addressing the drop in numbers of EU farmers, the July 18th AGRIFISH council, and your friendly reporter’s favorite subject: pesticide regulation. By Ashley Parsons

The EU is Losing Farmers… Fast

Last week the ECVC (European Coordination Via Campesina) and the EMB (European Milk Board) sent an open_letter to the EU leaders expressing their concern at the decline in farmers across the bloc. One study suggests the bloc will lose an additional 6.9 million farms by 2040, a decrease of 62% of 2016’s figures. 

The letter expresses concern in the current economic climate for the renewal of farmers willing and able to operate in the EU. It says “a robust, comprehensive production structure would avoid production becoming concentrated in a small number of locations and thus the unhealthy industrialization of agricultural production.” 

The letter requests the following from leaders:

  • Producer prices must be coupled with production costs No agricultural products should be sold below production cost;
  • Farmers must be placed at the heart of agricultural strategies and must be appropriately involved in shaping them;
  • The European Green Deal must be used to reform the current system towards a socially-sustainable model;
  • Imported food and feedstuffs must comply with EU requirements which need to be enforced;
  • There is a need to reduce the dependence on imports and damaging cheap exports by excluding agricultural products from World Trade Organisation (WTO) and free trade agreements

The letter calls for reforms now, not later.

Adoption of CAP Strategic Plans

Speaking of reforms and changes, last week we covered the leak on strategic plans and their lack of action with regard to the environment and climate change. On July 18th, the adoption of CAP strategic plans was a topic of discussion at the first AGRIFISH council of the Czech Presidency. Two main topics were presented with regards to the CAP strategic plans. 

– A speedy adoption of CAP strategic plans to begin implementation as soon as possible 

Janusz Wojciechowski announced the Commission “intends to adopt all the plans by end of the year at the latest.” Portugal, Poland, Spain, Denmark, and France discussions have been finalised and are proceeding to launch the approval process. Up to 10 member states will submit new versions before the summer break. 

Adoption of strong and legally binding CAP plans in a timely manner is imperative to reaching the goals of Farm to Fork and the Green New Deal. 

– Difficulties in Ukraine in securing food security and environmental challenges

Wojciechowski continued that CAP plans must respond to “long-term sustainability is fundamental to long-term food security.” 

The Commissioner says it is a priority to strike a fair-balance between global food security and the Green Deal agenda. Additional measures could contribute to addressing food availability, especially with regards to wheat. This could take the form in expanding EU solidarity lanes to help transfer grain out of Ukraine.

However, the war means that “short term needs” accompany longer term sustainability goals:


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So the agricultural Commissioner is finalising plans to allow for derogations from crop rotations and space for nature, but also insisting that these will come in in the future.

There are, it seems, often these so called short term needs. For example, in 2018, quietly over the summer break, many of the same green measures were postposed but for different reasons  -then it was drought. 

And again farming systems are under stress with a heatwave  all over Europe, with the worst drought in decades being experienced in northern Italy. This contradictory conundrum, this perma-crises, is now a feature not a bug – from Brexit to covid to climate to war.

For how long can short term solutions continue to be put forward, while longer term plans get postposed, or put onto the long finger? 

Nitrogen – Just Fix it! CAP’s Nature & Rotation Rules Under Threat

The SUR moving forward?

The SUR pesticide reduction law was a highlight of the AGRIFISH agenda. The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety praised the ambitious proposal and reminded the commission that it is supported by citizen expectations. 

The largest intensive agriculture lobby was invited to attend the meeting, COPA-COGECA, which has lobbied against the SUR. In a tweet, COPA-COGECA used the old acronym for the regulation, SUD, which suggests the lobby’s support of the previous legislation on the issue, an optional ‘directive,’ rather than the new legally-binding regulation.

After the debates, countries voted in a similar way to this spring. Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Romania opposed the measures. The main critique from these countries was the lack of flexibility with regards to national context. For example, in Slovenia, which has over 350 Natura 2000 sites, the regulation would limit agricultural activities near these areas. And speaking to Politico (paywalled) Danish Agriculture Minister Rasmus Prehn criticized the targets for being too vast and not adapted to national contexts. “The reduction targets should take into account the past efforts of the member states,” he said. Greece, Finland and Portugal neither opposed nor supported the measures. 

The regulation comes at a time when data on pesticide use is drastically needed to be able to calculate if reduction targets are being reached. Researcher Dara Stanley published findings that only 4 of 30 EU nations had useful data available. The European Environmental Bureau published a briefing on how pesticide regulation and use in countries’ CAP strategic plans plan to get the job done. 

An annual, standardised, and legally binding reporting protocol is needed if the EU can expect to meet the target of 50% reduction in pesticides by 2030, in line with the Green Deal and Farm to Fork commitments. 

On that, here’s a tool being developed in France – could it be used elsewhere?


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Leaked Letters Reveal Environment & Climate Commissions’ Severe Criticism of CAP Plans

Rain-Czech for the Environment | Spectacularly Unambitious 6 Month Presidency announced

Nitrogen – Just Fix it! CAP’s Nature & Rotation Rules Under Threat




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About Ashley Parsons 27 Articles

On her 7000km journey from France to Kyrgyzstan on bicycle and horseback, daily interactions and sometimes long sojourns with rural farmers and grassroots organizations showed Ashley Parsons the resilience and strength of our rural communities. Ashley is a writer and journalist dedicated to exploring potential and existing systems of inclusive progress, whether they are found in the agro-economy sphere or in the larger biodiversity and environmental conservation movement. In her work with ARC2020, she acts as the Paris correspondent, covering newsworthy agri-food and rural topics at the EU level, communicating with partners, and assisting with the on-the-ground work of Nos Campagnes en Résilience in supporting farmers and other rural actors.

A propos d’Ashley Parsons

Lors de son voyage de 7 000 km de la France au Kirghizistan à vélo et à cheval, Ashley a fait de nombreuses rencontres avec les paysans et des membres associatifs de terrain. Elle a même séjourné plusieurs semaines chez certains d’entre eux découvrant, ainsi, la force et la résilience des campagnes. Écrivaine et journaliste, Ashley s’est consacrée, principalement, à l'exploration de systèmes progressistes - tant aux possibilités qu’à l’existant - qui favorisent l’intégration sociale, et se trouvant dans le monde agro-économique ou de manière plus large, dans le mouvement de conservation de la biodiversité et de préservation de l’environnement. Au sein de l’association ARC2020, elle est correspondante pour la France, couvrant les actualités agroalimentaires et rurales au niveau de l'UE. Elle fait partie de l’équipe « Nos campagnes en résilience », pour soutenir la communication avec les partenaires ainsi que le travail sur le terrain.