Environmental body calls for new agricultural policy

Ahead of political talks on whether to keep spending around 40% of the EU budget on the farm scheme, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has called on the Commission to break with the status quo and draft a new policy focused on four strategic areas: protection of biodiversity and ecosystems; sustainable rural development; sustainable and healthy consumption; and a transition to sustainable farming.

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations with 141 members in over 30 countries.

Faustine Bas-Defossez, EEB policy manager for Agriculture and Bioenergy, said: “EU farm policy has contributed to driving Europe’s food and farming system to the brink. Continuing with it would be unthinkable given the sharp decline of our natural resources exacerbated by climate change, the numerous crises hitting the farming sector and the current major political changes in the EU. Bold reform of the policy to ensure it is based on a new contract between farmers and society is urgently needed. Without such a reform, political leaders will find it difficult to continue justifying spending taxpayers’ money to fund the current system of farm payments.”

While the CAP was reformed in 2013 to include a ‘greening’ payment, most of the evidence shows that this is only ‘green’ in name. Many farmers receive the green payment for improving nature on specific areas of their land, yet most of these zones are actually full of crops instead of nature-friendly hedges or bushes. In some countries, farmers even receive a green payment for maize monocultures.

“Using a failed greening policy to justify continuing spending so much of the EU budget on the broken CAP would be scandalous and would only further de-legitimise the entire policy and its budget. Political leaders need to think outside the box. Fundamental reform of the policy is the only way to ensure the sustainable management of our natural resources.”

The EEB calls for a move away from the dysfunctional two pillar system where harmful payments in Pillar 1 often cancel out the limited environmental benefits brought by Pillar 2.

“The emphasis should be on using public money to develop a transition fund that will help make farms resource efficient, low carbon, ecologically sound, sustainable and resilient undertakings that are less dependent on chemical inputs and imported fodder, and ensure that they can deal with risk and the unavoidable volatility that comes with an uncertain climate and market,” added Bas-Defossez.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.