- The European Commission has proposed to postpone some environmental rules of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by one year to 2024
- EU agriculture ministers and the European Parliament had called for the measure because it could increase EU grain production in light of the war in Ukraine
- Environmentalists have warned that exemptions will have limited impact on markets while damaging the environment
The European Commission has agreed to delay new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) environmental rules to boost EU cereal production and fill the trade gap left by war in Ukraine
On July 22, the Commission proposed to postpone the new crop rotation and set-aside requirements that farmers were supposed to meet under the next CAP for a year – from 2023 to 2024. The proposal would exempt farmers of two Good Basic Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) to receive CAP direct payments – GAEC 7 and 8 – and aims to free up farmland and boost EU cereal production. In practice, this would allow farmers to continue producing the same crop on a specific plot of land in 2023 – with the exception of corn and soybeans – when they would not have to keep at least 4% of their land. excluding production for biodiversity purposes until 2024 .
The EU executive has already introduced similar exemptions to the current CAP rules on Ecological Focus Areas (EIS) for the year 2022, which allowed farmers to grow crops on land that was fallow this year, but failed to increase EU cereal production due to dry weather. . Nevertheless, European farmers’ groups had been pushing to extend these exemptions and members of the European Parliament and EU agriculture ministers also backed the measure as a way to ensure food safety.
The Commission clarified that its proposal had been made in response to “a request from EU member states” and estimated that the measure could bring an additional 1.5 million agricultural land into production, depending on the specific choices made by Member States and farmers. “Every ton of cereals produced in the EU will contribute to increasing food security in the world,” the EU executive said, pointing to “high risks and uncertainties” for the global food system resulting from the war in Ukraine.
The Commission proposal will now be formally adopted by EU Member States in the Council before entering into force.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski lobbied for CAP exemptions and finally managed to convince the other commissioners on the last day before their summer vacation. On Twitter, the EU’s agriculture chief said “it is fundamental that the EU contributes to closing the production gap to tackle the global shortage of wheat and help fight hunger in the world. world”.
However, European environmental groups and green policymakers have strongly criticized the CAP exemptions for weakening the EU’s climate and sustainability ambitions. NGOs had written to the Commission opposing any delay in the green rules and argued it was a ‘wrong solution’ as it would have a limited impact on EU food production while causing serious damage to the environment. Green groups pointed out that crop rotation and fallow land are essential to protect soils and on-farm biodiversity and play an important role in ensuring long-term food security.
In response to the proposal, Guy Pe’er, a conservation biologist, also warned that “it is not only the least efficient way to improve food production, but also the riskiest from the point of view of food safety”.
In response, the Commission admitted that the GAEC measures are important to preserve soil and biodiversity on farms, but stressed that the derogations are temporary and “strictly necessary to meet global food safety concerns”. The EU executive also explained that corn and soy were excluded from the proposal because these crops are generally used for animal feed instead of food.
Commissioner Wojciechowski also claimed their proposal struck a “cautious balance” between short-term food security needs and the EU’s long-term sustainability goals. Other EU officials stressed that the Commission is still “fully committed” to the objectives of the European Green Deal and that member states will be required to promote other environmental measures as part of their CAP strategic plans. .
The EU executive also pointed out that it had launched several other policy measures in recent months to address food security issues resulting from the war in Ukraine, including through an EU food security plan. EU to support its own farmers and a solidarity pathways plan to help Ukraine export its agri-food products.
This article was published by S&P Global Commodity Insights and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.