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Governments miss yet another opportunity to green EU farming – NGO reaction

The European Commission must amend its proposal to reform the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) before farm ministers and the European Parliament come to a conclusion on their positions, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said following a meeting of national ministers this week.

EU farm ministers met on Monday 20th July to discuss environmental aspects of the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). [1] The meeting was the first to be scheduled under the German presidency and it’s likely to be the last formal debate on the environmental ambition of the new CAP and its links to the Farm to Fork Strategy before ministers agree a position on both files in October. [2]

The EEB strongly criticised the outcome of the meeting, denouncing the ministers’ excessive focus on flexibility in the use of farm subsidies and failure to agree on green funding and conditionalities.

Bérénice Dupeux, the EEB’s senior policy officer for agriculture, said:

“Today’s discussions have once again highlighted the failure of our governments to acknowledge that the survival of our natural world depends on the decisions we make today about the future of farming.

Governments must agree to dedicate sufficient budget to green payments for farmers and stop lobbying for measures that would allow them to continue wasting taxpayers’ money on climate-wrecking, unsustainable business practices indefinitely.”

The EEB called for at least 50% of the CAP budget to be allocated to measures relating to environmental protection and climate action. This is a necessary condition for the new eco-schemes to deliver on the promises of the EU Green Deal. In addition, all farmers receiving public money must  be required to maintain and rebuild a set share of “non-productive features and areas” such as hedges, ponds, buffer strips, or fallow land, which provide crucial habitats for pollinators and other wildlife on farmland.

Commenting on the next steps, Célia Nyssens, the EEB’s policy officer for agriculture, said:

 “Today’s meeting shows our governments’ reluctance to give farming a new direction. This makes it clear that the European Commission needs a stronger legal basis than their current CAP reform proposal to ensure the CAP contributes to its flagship EU Green Deal. To uphold the promises they made to EU citizens with the Green Deal, this Commission must revise its CAP proposal before governments and the European Parliament finalise their position.”

A healthy food and agriculture system can help address multiple crises, as demonstrated by the Covid-19 crisis or recent heat waves and droughts. Such shocks to the system highlight the structural weaknesses of the sector, such as chronic overproduction of unsustainable livestock and dependence on migrant labour in the fruit and vegetable sectors.

Only a more environmentally, socially and economically resilient farming system will be able to respond to the multiple challenges it faces, the EEB concluded.

Notes to editors

[1] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/agrifish/2020/07/20/

[2] https://eeb.org/eu-nature-and-farming-plans-welcomed-by-green-groups/