Agriculture Atlas 2019

Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Friends of the Earth Europe, BirdLife International
Place of publication
Brussels, Belgium
Date of Publication
May 2019
Number of Pages
70
Licence
Language of publication
English
Series

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. All over Europe, there is a shift in how the soil is managed and livestock are kept. In many places, farmers are throwing in the towel and giving up their farms. The remaining farms are getting bigger, and every patch of land is being used as intensively as possible.

The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, generously furnished with an annual budget of almost 60 billion euros, is the most important means to help farmers and mould the future. Despite this, policies are not geared to what many European citizens regard as important: conserving the environment, keeping animals in appropriate conditions, protecting waters birds and insects, and maintaining life and livelihoods in rural areas.

The Agriculture Atlas shows how closely Europe’s agriculture is intertwined with our lives and our living space. It also reveals how little of the funding from the Common Agricultural Policy is fit for purpose: how little of the funding actually furthers the goals that Europeans wish for their farming.

But the atlas also illustrates that it is worthwhile pushing for a better, fundamentally different set of agricultural policies. In many countries in the European Union, movements are growing for a sustainable food system that is socially acceptable and globally just. Farmer and consumer associations are forming networks with groups that promote nature, the environment and animal welfare, as well as with international development organizations.

The European edition of this atlas takes up this banner. It combines elements from various already published national editions, giving both an overview of Europe as a whole as well as insights into the agricultural structures in various EU member states.

 

Table of contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

IMPRINT p.02

INTRODUCTION p.08

TWELVE BRIEF LESSONS ON AGRICULTURAL POLICY IN EUROPE p.10

EU / INTRODUCTION - HITTING TARGETS, MISSING GOALS p.12

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. Payments tied to area disproportionately benefit large, industrialized farms and promote productivity. Goals to minimize and adapt to climate change, protect the environment and promote rural development are poorly served.

EU / NET PAYERS - A DECADES-LONG DISCOUNT WORTH 130 BILLION EUROS p.14

A mini-Brexit took place back in 1985 with the UK budget rebate, which violates the principle of solidarity in European integration. But the payments made to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy are hindering further threats of withdrawal from the European Union.

EU / DIRECT PAYMENTS TIED TO THE LAND p.16

Three-quarters of the Common Agricultural Policy budget goes into direct payments for farmers – almost regardless of what they do. Most of the money benefits just a few large producers and fails to deliver on the social and environmental challenges rural areas face.

EU / RURAL DEVELOPMENT FOR SOME, THE SECOND PILLAR HAS THE SECOND PRIORITY p.18

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.

FRANCE / BUDGET THE BIGGEST BENEFICIARY p.20

France is the largest recipient of Common Agricultural Policy funds. But there are significant disparities among the country’s regions, between types of production, and among farms.

AUSTRIA / BUDGET SOME PROGRESS, BUT COULD DO BETTER p.22

EU funds flow into Austrian farming through various channels. The country makes better use of some sources of money than its neighbours. But it is still missing its targets.

ITALY / BUDGET IGNORING THE BETTER OPTIONS p.24

For 2014 to 2020, the Common Agricultural Policy has allocated a total of 52 billion euros for Italy – 41.5 billion come from EU funds and 10.5 billion from the Italian government. This sum has to be shared among more than a million farms. Italy is a net contributor to the CAP, getting less back from the EU than it pays in. It uses its money unwisely, favouring privately owned large farms over the public interest.

POLAND / AGRICULTURAL STRUCTURES MISGUIDED TRANSFORMATION p.26

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.

EU / FARMS GROWING UP p.28

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 lowinput 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.

GERMANY / FARM STRUCTURES WHOSOEVER HATH, TO HIM SHALL BE GIVEN p.30

One by one, Germany’s farms are dying off. For many, that is a worrying trend. But to fight it, society must agree on what the future of agriculture should look like.

SPAIN / WATER MAINLY IN THE PLAIN p.32

Farming around the Mediterranean has become more and more dependent on irrigation, without any realistic consideration of the limited water available. Spain is no exception.

EU / WORK LIP SERVICE ONLY p.34

Farm work is changing as capital replaces labour, and as paid employees replace family members. Where agricultural productivity is low, many farmers must look for outside work to make ends meet. Although small farms employ more workers, the Common Agricultural Policy supports large farms and does little to ensure decent pay or working conditions.

EU / LAND OWNERSHIP FROM FAMILY FARM TO FARMING FIRM p.36

Europe’s farms are getting bigger. Agriculture payments sparked a wave of land purchases in the new member states right after they joined the EU. Land prices have since increased steadily. Small and medium farms are being bought out by agribusiness and financial investors and are being replaced by large enterprises. The decline of family farming has major repercussions for rural society and the economy. Land ownership is now more highly concentrated than is overall wealth in the EU.

EU / BIODIOVERSITY INTENSIFICATION VS CONSERVATION p.38

People often say that there are fewerbirds and insects now than there used to be. That is true, and intensive agriculture is largely to blame. Despite some lip service paid to the necessity of nature conservation, the overwhelming weight of European agricultural policy is to promote yet more intensification. 

AUSTRIA / BIODIVERSITY HOW HABITATS ARE LOST p.40

Biodiversity continues to decline in Austria. The pressure from intensive agriculture is not letting up; it still overwhelms any successful measures to promote environmental conservation.

ITALY / NATURA 2000 FARMING AND ENVIRONMENT: A DELICATE BALANCE p.42

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. 

SPAIN / HIGH NATURE VALUE FARMING BIODIVERSITY UNDER THREAT p.44

Shepherds and their flocks are disappearing; traditional crops are becoming scarcer. Such trends endanger the production of high-quality, healthy food, the maintenance of biodiversity, and the conservation of natural resources. 

EU / PESTICIDES SPRAY TODAY, GONE TOMORROW p.46

 It is a common sight: a tractor with a big tank on the back and long booms stretching out on either side, moving methodically across the field. Farmers across Europe spray huge amounts of pesticides on their land in an attempt to control plant diseases, weeds and insect pests. This practice not only harms the environment; it is also unnecessary, wasteful and expensive. 

EU / LIVESTOCK RAISING FARMING AS IF ANIMALS MATTERED p.48

Year by year, the EU makes large payments as direct per hectare premiums. But this money is required for the expensive, and badly-needed conversion of animal husbandry. The Common Agricultural Policy currently does little to improve conditions. This is true not only for small animal stocks, but also for larger ones. For many people in Europe it is important that the animals are kept well.

EU / FERTILIZER OVERUSE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING p.50

Applied in moderation, nitrates are good for agriculture. Nitrogen is a major plant nutrient and a key component of fertilizers. But an overabundance of nitrate is a menace. Plants cannot take up the huge amounts of N from fertilizer, manure or slurry spread on the land. The nitrates wash into rivers, lakes and the sea, where they cause algal blooms and fish die-offs. In drinking water, excess nitrates cause circulatory system problems. The EU recognizes the risks, but its institutions and member states’ governments do far too little to prevent them. 

EU / ORGANIC FARMING WORKING WITH NATURE p.52

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. 

GERMANY / ORGANIC FARMING ORGANIC GROWTH p.54

Eco boom notwithstanding: EU farm subsidies are constraining the transformation of German agriculture. Brussels pays flat-rate area premiums directly, but the organic premiums must be subsidized by the state governments.

FRANCE / AGROECOLOGY THE KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY p.56

French agricultural policy has been guided by an agroecological project since 2014. But these good intentions are not reflected in the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is high time to put the focus on agroecology. 

POLAND / LAND USE CHANGE LOOKING BEYOND PRODUCTION p.58

Producing high-quality food is an essential role of rural areas. But the countryside also has other important functions. It is home to many people, and plays a major part in maintaining the natural environment. Unfortunately, these functions do not get enough support in Poland. 

EU / HEALTH NEW POTATO, FRIED POTATO, COUCH POTATO p.60

Where is widespread agreement that health should be a pillar of the EU’s agricultural policy. But the transition towards a healthy and sustainable food system will not depend on the CAP alone. Sustainable production can be realized only in the framework of sustainable consumption. 

EU / CLIMATE PUTTING CARBON BACK IN THE SOIL p.62

A changing climate has more impact on agriculture than any other human activity. But agriculture is also one of the main causes of climate change. Europe’s agricultural policies currently only pay lip-service to adaptation and mitigation in dealing with climate change. They should do a lot more. 

EU / WORLD TRADE A GLOBAL PRICE TAG FOR EUROPE’S AGRI FOOD SECTOR p.64

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. 

AUTHORS AND SOURCES FOR DATA AND GRAPHICS p.66

ABOUT US p.70