The EU is overhauling the bloc’s sustainable food strategy after concerted push for planned reforms by national governments, farmers and the agricultural sector.
Brussels agreed two years ago to reform its agricultural practices as part of a commitment to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a decline in grain and fertilizer exports from those countries and has raised concerns about food security.
The bloc’s agriculture ministers will meet on Monday to discuss both short-term measures to reduce the risk of shortages and price hikes and possible changes to the Farm to Fork sustainable food strategy.
“There is a desire to ensure that the objectives we have in our public policies are aligned with the need for food security. † † and sovereignty,” said an EU diplomat.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the sustainable food strategy is “based on a pre-Ukraine wartime world” and needs to be revised.
The plans would lead to a 13 percent drop in food production, he said Friday. Macron needs the votes of the country’s powerful agricultural lobby in next month’s elections, but similar concerns are being voiced in other member states, such as Spain and Italy.
The conflict has caused the prices of wheat, maize and other staple foods to soar. The EU gets half of its maize from Ukraine and a third of its fertilizer from Russia. Fertilizer prices rose by 170 percent last year due to high gas prices.
According to recent assessments by the European Commission, the EU is likely to face price increases, but not shortages.
The €58 billion a year common agricultural policy, which still consumes more than a third of the bloc’s annual budget, has enabled the EU to become a net food exporter. In recent years, production-related subsidies have been reduced and converted into allowances for environmental schemes. Pesticide use has declined with more and more banned substances.
Completely decoupling subsidies from production to help meet the EU’s net emissions obligations was considered too controversial, so the commission adopted a set of 2030 targets as part of its “farm to fork” strategy. These include cutting the use of fertilizers by one fifth, halving the use of antibiotics and increasing the amount of organically farmed land from 9 percent to 25 percent.
The directive on the sustainable use of pesticides, which aimed to halve their use and could raise food prices, was expected to be approved this week but has now been postponed, officials say.
Copa-Cogeca, the EU farmers’ lobby group, has sent a list of demands to Janusz Wojciechowski, the European Commissioner for Agriculture. “A paradigm shift is needed. † † starting with the objectives, objectives and timeline of the Farm to Fork strategy,” it said, highlighting the bloc’s need for “strategic autonomy.”
It wants to increase fertilizer imports, pesticide use and crop production for animal feed, while advocating opt-outs from ecological schemes and climate-related animal welfare standards.
Pekka Pesonen, secretary general of Copa-Cogeca, said the best way to reduce CO2 emissions was to increase productivity. He wants to allow new technologies that allow gene editing to improve animal and plant output.
“Broadly speaking, two-thirds of the productivity gains will come from better genetics, our crops and livestock.”
Civil society and non-governmental organizations urge Wojciechowski to resist.
Watering down the farm-to-fork strategy and its policies will perpetuate Europe’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels, and go against what is now needed to secure food for all. letter from the Food Policy Coalition.
Farm to Fork remained the best long-term strategy, Wojciechowski told the Financial Times in an interview. But he has proposed a temporary four-point plan to agriculture ministers.
To offset the sharp drop in feed imports from Ukraine, he wants to allow farmers just one year to plant the 2.6 percent of land “set aside” for environmental benefits with feed crops.EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski has presented a temporary plan to agriculture ministers © Francisco Seco/Pool/AFP/Getty
Wojciechowski also wants to use the €500 million reserve fund of the CAP to support farmers. For example, pork producers would be helped with the storage of carcasses. And he wants state aid rules to be changed so that governments can provide more subsidies to farmers facing high costs.
“With these instruments and the CAP, we can prevent a further rise in food prices,” he said.
“We must continue with the reforms, where we use manure and leave crop residue on the ground,” Wojciechowski added. “This can reduce the dependence on fertilizers. Intensification is not the solution for the future.”
Jabier Ruiz, of WWF Europe, recognizes the need for short-term action but questions Macron’s 13 percent reduction rate, derived from a scientific assessment of the Farm to Fork strategy.
He said such reviews looked only at conventional measures, ignoring the role of revitalizing the soil by using it less intensively and changing diets.
More than half of the EU’s crops are grown to feed animals, he said. The block consumes 60 kg of soybeans per head annually, most of it by livestock.
“We don’t have a food crisis, we have a feed crisis,” he said.
This post EU revises sustainable food plans as war in Ukraine disrupts imports was original published at “https://www.ft.com/content/f99d784c-0448-4552-ab8b-e77ed68ea173”