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:
Dear Eddy, I keep saying the same argument all the time – we have short-term needs caused by the unprovoked war in Ukraine and medium to long-term ones well rooted in our sustainability goals.
— Janusz Wojciechowski (@jwojc) July 18, 2022
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?
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?
Interesting hotspot around Bordeaux – a key area for wine production and one of our case study sites!
— SPRINT: Assessing the impacts of pesticide use (@SprintH2020) July 18, 2022