October was accompanied by many interesting and heated discussions about the future of European farming in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.
While European agricultural ministers debated their plans for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Luxembourg on the 11th & 12th (Agriculture and Fisheries Council), the European Parliament voted on it’s own initiative report reacting to the Farm to Fork strategy in the week of the 18th. A big point of disagreement among policy makers and stakeholders was, and still is, to what extend both policies should be linked.
In Luxembourg, agriculture ministers seek distance from Green Deal and more flexibility
A majority of agriculture ministers already expressed that they will not accept their CAP strategic plans 2023-2027 to be approved on the basis of targets mentioned in the Farm to Fork Strategy to be fulfilled by 2030. Such targets include:
- Reducing the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50%,
- Farming 25% of the EU’s agricultural land organically,
- Reducing nutrient losses by at least 50% (excess of especially nitrogen and phosphorus in the environment),
- Reducing the use of fertilisers by 20%,
- Reducing the sales of antimicrobials in animal farming and aquaculture by 50%,
- Cutting per capita food waste at retail and consumer level by half.
Instead, agriculture ministers insisted that their plans should be assessed on the basis of the agreed CAP regulations and not on a non-legally binding paper like the Farm to Fork strategy. For the European Commission represented by Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski however one thing is clear: during the CAP negotiations, it was accepted that Members States should prove how they intend to achieve these targets in their strategic plan
Meanwhile, Member States seem to be struggling with the deadline. They are supposed to submit their plans for approval to the Commission by December 2021 but in Luxembourg, at the EU Council meeting, seven countries including Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia asked the Commission for more flexibility. They also asked for help from the Commission and being provided with templates which could help them finalise their plans. With the end of the year approaching, it will be soon clear which countries can keep to the timeline and how much of their plans will be related to the Farm to Fork strategy.
In Brussels, MEPs support Farm to Fork’s targets
A week after the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the European Parliament was preparing to vote on its Farm to Fork report. Despite disagreements on several issues by political parties, the Parliament’s plenary vote finally backed up the Commission’s plan. It also recommended to stick to the Strategy’s suggested targets and called on the CAP to be aligned with those.
While many food chain actors like conventional farmers organisations, representatives of the food industry and food traders were trying to weaken the report, CSOs, including Friends of the Earth Europe, were calling for the targets to be upheld and made even more ambitious, and for stronger links to be made between the CAP and the Strategy.
If October was intense, November will probably not be outdone. Agriculture will remain high on the political agenda as the European Parliament will have its final vote on the CAP on November 24th. This final step in the co-decision process will make the new legislation enter into force as of January 2023.
Watch this space and follow us on social media for more updates on the CAP reform.