September were marked as follows:

  • At the level of the European Parliament, De Castro (S&D), rapporteur on the file, presented to the ComAgri the first amended version concerning the recovery plan for agriculture. It could allow the sector to benefit from more than €10 billion, to be mobilized during 2021 and 2022. 
  • At the Agri Council meeting, Ministers gathered to talk about green architecture, direct payments and the new delivery model. Ministers stressed the need for further discussions on the strategic plan’s approval process.

08/26 Agricultural policy bill approved in Scotland 

The Agriculture Retained EU Law and Data Bill has passed Stage 3, following a debate in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill creates powers that enable Scottish Ministers to ensure the CAP can continue beyond this year, as well as retaining the ability to make improvements to the scheme following Brexit. It also improves the legal basis for collecting information about the agri-food supply chain and activities relating to agriculture. 

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This Bill puts in place the legal framework to allow us to take action to streamline, simplify and free up resources to pilot and test activities likely to feature in a future farming and rural support policy beyond 2024”. 

08/28 400 organisations demand radical CAP’s change

Twelve national coalitions, representing over 400 organisations from a wide range of interests, have come together to demand radical reform in the CAP by a co-signed letter sent at the time of the informal AGRIFISH meeting.

The German Presidency, which ends on 31st December, stated that it wants to conclude the CAP negotiations within the term of its presidency. 

The Good Food Good Farming Coalition, and French Pour Une Autre Pac, have joined coalitions from Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria Poland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Austria, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Belgian Wallonia to sign the letter which aims to prioritize food sovereignty over business-as-usual in CAP. 

In the letter, the associations ask for more synergy between the EU Green Deal’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies; more ambition for conditionality and other protections; a move away per hectare payments towards public money for public services; a results-focused new delivery model; and great transparency and better inclusion are the specific demands. 

08/31 The Green Deal must focus on solutions, says DBV 

The meeting of the Informal Council of EU Agriculture Ministers was an opportunity for the DBV to once again make known its positions on the CAP reform, the Green Deal and related strategies. DBV President Joachim Rukwied called on EU agriculture ministers to take greater account of the economic needs of European farms in future decisions: “The experience of the Corona crisis shows how important it is to have independent, competitive and high-quality food production in the hands of European farmers. Until now, this issue has been completely neglected in the “Green Deal” and the “Farm-to-Fork” strategy. Food security must therefore be a priority in the Green Deal”, said Mr Rukwied. If the EU wants to achieve greater sustainability and climate neutrality by 2050, it must first and foremost support domestic production and avoid migration to other continents. The DBV leaders also criticised the “farm to fork” strategy, which requires European farmers to radically change the use of plant protection and fertilisation by 2030. 

“In the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy, the EU must focus on strategies for solutions rather than politicised reduction targets”.

La réunion du Conseil informel des ministres de l’agriculture de l’UE est l’occasion pour le DBV de faire connaître une nouvelle fois ses positions sur la réforme de la PAC, le Pacte vert et les stratégies associées. 

09/07 Creation of a working committee on the future of agriculture in Germany 

More environmental protection and better conditions on farms, but also lower food prices: After years of bickering over agriculture in Germany, a government committee is once again trying to reach a broad consensus.

During the launch of the new governmental commission on the future of agriculture, Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner called for dialogue on all sides. “If the younger generation is to be prepared to continue to take over their parents’ farms and thus a lot of work, there must be a social consensus, a kind of pacification”. 

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze stressed the need for change. “There is no way around the fact that our agriculture and food industry must become more environmentally friendly“. The “future Commission” appointed by the cabinet of the chancellor started its work on September 7thand is expected to present a first interim report this autumn. Its members include representatives of agriculture, trade and the food industry, consumers, environmental and animal rights activists and scientists. Its chairman is the former president of the German Research Foundation, Peter Strohschneider. The final report with its recommendations is expected to be available in early summer 2021.

09/08 The German Greens’ programme for agriculture 

The Greens want to make German agriculture more resislient to climate change and have drawn up a plan to achieve this. “Instead of a permanent crisis mode, we need a climate plan for agriculture”, explained the president of the Green parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Dr Anton Hofreiter. In view of the increasing frequency of droughts and storms, insect mortality and farm deaths, it is crucial to move towards a more ecological and climate-friendly agriculture with a high level of animal welfare, Hofreiter said.

The “billions of euros for agriculture” should be linked to public welfare criteria, animal numbers should be drastically reduced and livestock farming should be tied to the land. 

To make agriculture more climate resilient, the Greens want to increase soil carbon sequestration and humus accumulation and promote agroforestry systems, mixed cropping, broad crop rotations with catch crops, and incorporation of plant residues and year-round soil cover.

A programme to reduce the use of plant protection products to protect soil life and insects is also needed. According to the group, a diversification programme should be created for farms so that they can practise more diversified crop rotations and drought-adapted crops and market them economically. 

The Greens also want to set up a special research programme on “climate resilience in agriculture” that will study the potential of adapted, resilient and regenerative farming systems such as agroforestry systems as well as cultivation methods and ways to improve the water storage capacity of soils.

09/21 National Strategic Plan approval needs further discussions  

During the Agri-Fish Council meeting, the German presidency presented a compromise proposal on the CAP green architecture, with draft suggestions on eco-schemes (mandatory, but more flexible through a two-years pilot phase), conditionalitysecond pillar environmental measures, legal certainty on the Strategic Plans approval process, & a simplified system of indicators

The Presidency confirmed a voluntary cap on direct aid from €100 000, a system of degressivity of support from €60 000, a gradual phasing-out of transitional national aid of -10% per year from 2023 (whereas the Commission would have liked to see them disappear from 2020) and increased flexibility for the transfer of funds between the 1st and 2nd pillars of the CAP. 

Ministers agreed on the need to adopt the Council’s general approach during their next meeting in October. Many ministers acknowledged that suggestions put forward by the Presidency are a step in the right direction. With regards to the new delivery model, ministers acknowledged the progress achieved so far but also considered that further discussions are still needed on specific issues: the approval process of the national strategic plans (SP) and, more generally, the need for a simplified policy. 

In this context, France presented a declaration supported by thirteen other Member States on the importance of developing plant protein production in EU agriculture. The signatories call for a simplification of the criteria for granting coupled aid for legume crops and to broaden the list of eligible productions.The Italian delegation together with the Czech also presented a statement with the support of the other 6 MS regarding the nutrition dossier and the labeling method. In particular, Italy’s position is against a color-coded system. This group of countries, on the other hand, supports labels that provide information on the intake of nutrients in relation to the diet. Commissioner Kyriakides noted that there will be “a detailed consultation process – with MS and stakeholders – to guarantee transparency“, concluding that the FOP “is not the only method to guide consumers towards healthier eating habits“.

09/21 ComAGRI’s discussion on the recovery package and the transitional fund

De Castro (S&D), rapporteur on this file, presented to the Committee the first modified version of the draft legislation. Notably, with the initiative of incorporating the original Commission proposal to the transitional regulation, the sector could be able to benefit from more than €10 billion in 2021 and 2022 (€7.5 billion from the Recovery fund, plus €2.6 billion from the anticipated budget – “frontloading”-).

09/23 Mobilizing the European agricultural recovery fund for an accelerated transition towards a double-performance European agriculture 

Following the meeting of the Parliament’s Agri Committee on 21 September to discuss the use of the recovery plan, Farm Europe highlighted the important role that investments have nowadays in the EU, notably in technical innovation. That allows to propose to farmers adapted solutions to their context.

The use of these tools ensures better input efficiency at the farm level. They are crucial tools in the transition of European agriculture towards a dual-performance agriculture: more economical in terms of inputs, taking care of the environment, and more economically efficient.

The European Union must be an actor in the democratization of these tools, making them accessible to all farmers and livestock breeders whatever the type and size of their farms, their farming practices and their backgrounds.

Mobilizing 60% of the recovery plan to support innovative investments in agriculture in 2021 and 2022 will allow a special plan of 10 billion investment for an accelerated transition of European agriculture towards double performance. 

(For more information, see the email of 23/09 “Recovery Plan and transition toward a double performance”)

09/25 Farm to Fork to be revised, if negative impact was proved

Named president of COPA, Christiane Lambert stressed the need to align agriculture with environmental objectives, lending support to the EU’s pivotal Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, but cautioning against what she described as the “dogmatic” targets set in the strategy.

According to her, it is necessary to connect these figures to the capacity of the market. “For instance, when the strategy reads 25% of [total farmland being used for] organic farming: will European citizens really eat 25% organic production?” she questioned.

Lambert also regretted the lack of an initial impact study to accompany the unveiling of strategy.

“Without an impact assessment, no decision can be made. And if negative aspects come up, they must be reviewed in the strategy”.

A similar remark was made by Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski. “If it were to become apparent that the achievement of the objectives set out in this strategy threatens both food safety and the competitiveness of our agriculture, then these objectives would have to be revised,” he said speaking before the French Senate in July.

The newly-elected COPA’s President defended the EU’s CAP from attacks, particularly those from environmental NGOs.

“As food security has begun to appear as something very valuable, it must be said strongly that we owe it to the CAP, which has enabled us to produce in quantity and quality,” she said.Expressing her disappointment that agriculture did not merit a mention in Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s first State of the Union speech last week, she emphasised that one of her main goals as President of COPA is to make a “State of the Agricultural Union”.

09/30 Civil society organisations call for better adjustement with the Green Deal objectives

A coalition of 30 European civil society organizations has written to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EP President David Sassoli & German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for full alignment of the reformed CAP with the broader objectives of the European Green Deal (GD). The signatories such as European Environmental Bureau (EEB), BirdLife Europe, Compassion in World Farming, Corporate Europe Observatory, EFFAT, EPHA, Friends of the Earth Europe, IFOAM Organics EU, OSEPI, PAN Europe, Slow Food, WWF & Zero Waste Europe, say a “strong democratic mandate underpins the Green Deal and Farm to Fork & Biodiversity Strategies.”

They insist that the overhauled farm policy must be fit to deliver on the objectives of these Strategies.

The coalition urges the EU leaders to amend the 2018 CAP proposal & presents three overarching priorities i) give the CAP a clear direction & robust governance i.e. by integrating relevant Green Deal targets into the CAP, ensure the framework is coherent with wider polices (health, climate, international development, just transition, circular economy & zero pollution) & “clearly tie subsidies” to progress on meeting these objectives; ii) ensure the CAP does not support or incentivize any harmful practices or practices that are incompatible with the GD including greater safeguards to stop or prevent subsidizing farming practices which have negative environmental, climate, health or international development impacts, such as intensive animal production & a strict ‘do not harm’ baseline into conditionality (max. animal density, min. space for nature, pesticide use reduction, protection of peatlands & permanent grasslands and crop rotation); iii) empower farmers & rural actors to be drivers of positive change inc. sufficient & qualitative CAP funding to incentivise & reward farmers to deliver on the GD objectives such as reducing pesticides, fertilisers & antimicrobials use, increasing organic farming, agro-ecology & agro-forestry, deploying high biodiversity landscape features, cutting GHG emissions, preventing food loss & waste and shifting dietary patterns.