Set in Brussels since the 1960s, the Common Agricultural Policy is one of the EU’s oldest policies. Despite its extensive funds and regular reforms every seven years, it is poorly attuned to the needs of Europe’s hugely diverse farm sector. Furthermore, goals to minimize and adapt to climate change, protect the environment and promote rural development are poorly served.
Facts and Figures on EU Farming Policy: No other economic activity is so closely interwoven with the human and natural environment as is agriculture. If farming changes, so too the ecological and social systems that it hosts must change. The Agriculture Atlas shows how closely Europe’s agriculture is intertwined with our lives and our living space and pushes for a better, fundamentally different set of agricultural policies.
One by one, Germany’s farms are dying off. One in every two farms was run as a sideline: the majority of the household’s income came from activities other than agriculture. For many, that is a worrying trend. But to fight it, society must agree on what the future of agriculture should look like.
Europe’s agriculture is part of many international value chains. It influences global commodity markets and thus the prices, products, income and diets in developing countries. Disagreement exists as to whether the area payments have a negative effect on developing countries.
French agricultural policy has been guided by an agroecological project since 2014. But these good intentions are not refl ected in the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is high time to put the focus on agroecology.
Rising demand for organic products in Europe is a market opportunity for producers and the food industry. But farmers need help to switch from conventional to organic, and to stay organic in face of market pressures inducing them to switch back. The Common Agricultural Policy offers some support – but not enough.
Like all industries, agriculture is subject to economies of scale. But larger farms have a smaller workforce and can be a bigger burden on the environment if they employ industrial methods, compared to the low-input systems that have traditionally dominated rural landscapes. It is time to shift policies towards preserving jobs and communities, being kinder on the environment, and encouraging young people to take up the farming profession.
The transition from communism to a free market has resulted in both pluses and minuses for Polish farms. Incomes have risen, especially for large farms. But young people are leaving, industrial farms have appeared, small farms are going under, and the income gap among farmers has widened.
Natura 2000 is the EU’s most important nature-conservation initiative. In Italy, this programme protects 2,944 sites, covering over 214,000 farms and 1.5 million hectares of agricultural land. The protected area is mainly made up of woodland, rough grazing and arable land.
The Common Agricultural Policy has two “pillars”, or pots of money to draw from. Pillar I, which consists largely of direct payments to farmers according to the area they manage, has come in for a lot of criticism. Pillar II, which supports rural development policy, is seen as more useful. But as the agriculture budget shrinks, it is Pillar II that faces the bigger cuts.
By Helene Schulze , Oliver Moore , Hans Martin Lorenzen