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Greening of CAP Essential

7 December 2011, at 2:17pm

ANALYSIS - Greening of farming often makes farmers see red, which appears to be the case with the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) proposals. Earlier this week, a panelist representing the EU, environmentalists and farmers debated the 30 per cent greening element. Charlotte Johnston, ThePoultrySite editor reports.

Sustainability is at the heart of the European Commission's (EC) environmental policy. However are the EC's CAP post 2013 proposals, particularly the greening element, contradictory to productivity.

Through direct payments, under Pillar 1, each holding will receive an additional payment per hectare, of 30 per cent. This is a compulsory measure that has been introduced. The three measures proposed include:

  • Maintenance of permanent pasture
  • Crop diversification - where there must be at least three crops in cultivation, none accounting for more than 70 per cent of land, or less than five per cent.
  • Maintenance of an ecological focus area of at least seven per cent.

Explaining the thinking behind the proposals, Tassos Haniotis, Director of Economic Analysis, Perspectives and Evaluations Directorate in the Directorate General for Agriculture of the European Commission said: "We want simple, controllable measures across the EU. Through this 30 per cent greening element we hope to address market and environmental failures across the EU, whilst maintaining economically and environmentally viable agriculture."

He said that agricultural prices have risen 60 per cent in recent years, fertiliser has gone up 180 per cent and energy costs 240 per cent. "Farmers must minimise costs, but this not be done by ignoring the environment."

"Environmental policy and management is failing," said David Baldock, Director for the Institute for European Environmental Policy. "45 per cent of agricultural soil is low on carbon, we can't meet our biodiversity targets and there is a huge issue with nitrogen pollution."

He said there is an urgent need to make step changes now to ensure competitive agriculture in the future.

"To produce more food we need to look after the basic resources. Therefore 30 per cent greening is not at all inappropriate."

Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of Copa-Cogeca believes that the proposals will only increase costs of production, red tape and uncertainty for producers.

"Greening is about sustainability, and this is something European farmers support, however we must ensure that productivity gains are not lost."

Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of Copa-Cogeca believes that the proposals will only increase costs of production, red tape and uncertainty for producers, as well as impose heavy penalties.

"Greening is about sustainability, and this is something European farmers support, however we must ensure that productivity gains are not lost."

Is taking seven per cent of land out of production a good idea? Mr Pesonen certainly doesn't think so.

"Firstly, previous setaside rules were unpopular with farmers and the public, who didn't believe subsidies should be handed out to farmers who weren't producing."

Over the last two years, two million hectares of agricultural land in the EU has been lost due to roads, housing and other urban development. These proposals will take more agricultural land out of production.

"Even if only three per cent of agricultural land is impacted through this rule, can we really expect farmers to carry on producing 100 per cent productivity with only 97 per cent land availability."

Mr Haniotis argued back, saying that we must look at the bigger picture, think about agriculture in the long term, and how carrying on production as we are now will reduce productivity.

"We did not suggest a seven per cent ecological focus area for political reasons. It is a fact. This type of practice will increase long term sustainability."

Mr Baldock said that to target biodiversity, 10 per cent would be much better. "However there has to be some compromise. Seven per cent is significantly more than is being done in some countries, however some countries are already going further than this.

"To achieve what the EC wants it would be beneficial to allow member states to revisit their eligible areas and include everything. For new member states this would be very beneficial."

Concluding Mr Haniotis said that, in the long term, the greening measures provide better capacity for EU agriculture to adapt to climate change in the future. There may be some short term small costs for producers, however the long term benefits outweigh this.

"The issue is how to green, it is not an option not too."