Environment in danger because of EU agriculture deal
Brussels, Belgium: Earlier today the Irish Presidency struck an agreement with the negotiating team of the European Parliament Agriculture Committee on a future farm deal for 2014-2020. This disappointing final agreement will undermine good farming practices and will continue the decline of environmental quality in rural areas.
The outcome is all the more disappointing since the original aim of this once in a seven year reform round was to support environmentally friendly farming practices and reverse the deterioration of the environment in rural areas. Instead, the European taxpayer is being asked to support a subsidy system to farmers with only limited environmental conditionality.
WWF is especially alarmed at the way the Rural Development Fund has been marginalised under this agreement. Existing rules (2007-2013) allocated 25% of funds to environmental measures. This has been significantly watered down. Instead, increased support will now be given to measures with little or no added value which will take up bulk of the funds. The agreement has no doubt been influenced by influential voices in the agri-food industries which have placed incredible political pressure on national governments and MEPs to support business as usual farming hand-outs.
Quotes Tony Long WWF European Director European Policy Office
“This wasted opportunity which now forms the basis of agricultural policy for the next seven years will come back to haunt farmers and the public. The well of public support for a European subsidy system for farmers has just dried up. No-one can seriously expect that this type of largesse will continue next time the CAP comes up for review. For years we have seen the acute problems of soil erosion, water scarcity and pollution as well as a decline in biodiversity. This deal will continue this decline in nature and in many instances it will be irreversible.”
“Agriculture Ministers have a lot to be responsible for. At every turn they have sought to water down the environmental credentials of the final Common Agricultural Policy deal and have stonewalled any of the limited drives by the European Commission and Parliament to make improvements”.
“The European Parliament has proven that it is not ready to handle its new full co-decision powers on the Common Agricultural Policy. At every turn the Agriculture Committee has tried to water down this reform. It even managed to throw out the few improvements the Parliament plenary had requested of them.”
What are the final outcomes on key WWF demands?
1. Negotiators crippled the currently existing mandatory minimum spending for environmental measures which is presently set at 25%, by adding additional measures that don’t have any added value for the environment and can often be harmful. A mandatory minimum spending of 30% is now introduced as the new standard, but with all these new harmful measures included and a smaller budget for Rural Development, the outcome will be nil.
2. Negotiators failed to make all direct subsidies conditional on a package of simple and effective measures that would benefit the environment. Farmers unwilling to comply with the – already weak – greening will now at most lose 37,5% of their direct payments, and only after several years of non-compliance.
3. Negotiators failed to increase the percentage of ecological focus areas from 7 to 10% but chose to decrease it to 5%, while allowing intensive production on these areas, which goes against the original objective of this measure. They furthermore exempted 35,5% of agricultural land or 89% of all farmers from having any EFAs at all.
4. Negotiators failed to protect all environmentally rich grasslands, wetlands and carbon rich soils, which can store between 50-100 million tonnes of carbon annually. That’s 10-20 million new cars on the road. This would have been an important contribution in the fight against climate change.
5. Negotiators failed to introduce real crop rotation, a proven practice for soil quality, and have exempted 46% of agricultural lands or 94% of all farmers from an already weak crop diversification measure containing three crops. They furthermore exempted 33% of agricultural lands or 87% of all farmers from doing any crop diversification at all. Farmers whose area is between 10 and 30ha now only have to comply with a 2 crop obligation.
6. Negotiators failed to make agricultural subsidies conditional upon compliance with basic EU law on pesticide use and water pollution. This will allow some farmers to continue polluting soil and water without losing their direct payments.
Infographic: Problems facing EU's Agriculture
For further information:
WWF European Policy Office
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