Greening Europe's agriculture policy
© Laurent Hamels – Fotolia.com
On 15 May agriculture ministers discussed one of the key elements of the EU's common agriculture policy reform – the efforts to encourage Europe's farmers to adopt more environmentally-friendly practices.
At the heart of the ministers' debate were three main greening measures proposed by the Commission:
• increasing crop diversity,
• creating and maintaining permanent pastures, and
• preserving natural areas and landscapes (i.e., setting aside 7% of farmland for the "ecological focus areas").
The proposal suggests that 30% of the direct payments be reserved for farms which use these practices. Organic farms and small farmers would be exempt from these requirements.
"I noted today a wide ambition for greening", said the Chair of the meeting, Danish minister for food, agriculture and fisheries Mette Gjerskov. "Although this debate was far from being finalised, it did contribute to moving things forward", said the minister.
Member states' proposals
The debate has shown that all member states support the idea of making agricultural practices greener, however, they would like the proposed measures to be more flexible, to take into account differences in the member states and regions, and not create any additional administrative burdens.
In essence, the member states' suggestions for amendments could be divided into three groups:
- More areas should be considered ‘green by definition’. For example, it should be applied not only to organically cultivated farmland, but also to land that is cultivated according to various environmental certification schemes applied by member states or already covered by rural development measures designed to protect the environment.
- The threshold for farms to which the requirement of crop diversification would apply should be minimum 10 hectares or more, and not three as is currently proposed. The obligation to include three crops in this diversification could raise difficulties in some countries where the climate reduces the number of cultivated varieties.
- The requirement of reserving 7% of farmland for "ecological focus areas" should be adjusted so that more areas may be included, and the requirements be applied to a region rather than to individual farms. A reduction of the threshold would make the implementation of this measure easier.
The Presidency has taken into account the views expressed at the debate and will continue working on the proposal in expert groups. It aims to prepare a progress report on the agricultural reform for the upcoming Council meeting in June. This should help the next Presidency to organise further discussion.
Press release (pdf)
Press conference (video)
Common agricultural policy reform (Europa portal)