THE European farming community is ‘essential to meeting many societal objectives such as food security as well as helping to meet targets on environment and climate and deliver other public goods,’ EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan stated on March 27th.
Speaking at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA 2018) - jointly organised by Syngenta and the European Landowners’ Organisation (ELO) - the EU Farm chief said ‘no other group can deliver for society in a comparable way … and no policy framework can support them as well as the CAP.’ During his address at the afternoon session, ‘Future for EU farming: Could EU agriculture survive without the CAP?’, he said ‘in positioning itself as a global leader in climate and environment action, the EU was acknowledging that we need to move beyond rhetoric and platitudes and focus on reality and action, including on food and agriculture policy.’
The Irish politician said the EU’s executive ‘was delivering on that promise,’ as DG AGRI is in the ‘final stages of developing a plan to bring European farming and food production fully and firmly into the 21st century, placing it at the heart of our international commitments on climate and sustainability.’
The new ‘integrated, simple and results-driven’ delivery model would be based on ‘clear targets and performance measurements,’ he outlined, insisting that increased subsidiarity for Member States would not lead to the renationalisation of the CAP.
However, BirdLife’s Ariel Brunner was less enthusiastic, repeating a call to completely overhaul the CAP, saying the current legislative framework was not fit for purpose for the 21st century. The Senior Head of Policy for Europe and Central Asia said the decline in biodiversity was in ‘free-fall,’ while the impact of climate change was ‘wiping out agricultural production’ in large areas around the Mediterranean.
The prominent environment campaigner is pushing for a policy ‘based on robust scientific analysis and sound land management,’ pointing to contradictions in the current design and a lack of rationale underpinning a number of measures – notably coupled payments linked to production and soybean cultivation on Ecological Focus Areas, which has ‘no meaning for biodiversity.’
He also underlined the need for a ‘transitional scheme to move towards a more sustainable model of farming’ and urged against the proliferation of ‘harmful subsidies’ vis-à-vis the environment. ‘There is no choice, we need a CAP for change … as we cannot continue with business as usual,’ Brunner concluded.
The annual agricultural forum in Brussels – now in its 11th year – gathered over 1,200 participants, where the theme this year was a ‘call for action by all stakeholders and society at large to work together in order to deliver real world solutions for a healthy future through healthy farming practices and healthy food production.’
Earlier in the day, the keynote speaker, Her Majesty Queen Noor Al-Hussein of Jordan, said ‘we must bring urgency to our actions today’ underlining the ‘interconnected nature of climate change and poor resource management crises with food security and, as a result, overall human security, which are having profound international consequences right now.’
In his concluding remarks, chairman of the forum Dr Janez PotoÄnik, former EU Environment Commissioner (2010-2014), said ‘we need inspired leadership to achieve a healthy future, transform our farm and economic models and create real change on the ground that will meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.’
The Slovenian politician underlined that all of us from farmers to consumers, politicians to business leaders, need to be part of a positive disruption in our thinking and actions leading to food and environment security.’
• Rose O’Donovan is the Editor-in-Chief of the Brussels-based publication AGRA FACTS.