The majority of EU agriculture ministers have confirmed the push for further flexibility on environmental measures in the EU’s farming subsidy programme in a bid to increase production.

The current situation has caused exports of grain and other key food commodities from the two agricultural powers to plummet, sparking fears of global food insecurity.

In efforts to counter this, the EU has allowed temporary derogations from certain environmental requirements in the EU’s farming subsidy programme, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – and, if member states get their way, this could be set to continue into 2023.

Concretely, this would involve extending the temporary exemptions for rules on crop rotation and the use of fallow land – in other words, farmland areas set aside for biodiversity – from this year into the next.

Crop rotation is the practice of growing different types of crops sequentially in the same area. Since it is particularly beneficial for soil health, it is included among the environmental practices to receive green direct payments under the current CAP.

In the current programme, in force temporarily until the end of the year, farmers with arable land exceeding 15 hectares must ensure that at least 5% of their land must be dedicated to areas beneficial for biodiversity, such as trees, hedges or land left fallow.

However, an extension of the derogation to the fallow land requirement to the next programme will have a bigger effect, as in the new CAP rules, set to enter into force from 2023, the requirement changes to 4% of fallow land for farms under 10 hectares.

This means that roughly 90% of arable land in Europe will be affected by such a derogation, with the exception of grasslands and permanent crops.

A ‘delicate balance’

A delicate balance between long-term sustainability and short-term production needs, especially when it comes to wheat, additional measures such as these derogations could help contribute to addressing food availability and affordability.

Meanwhile, the issue is compounded by the lack of water in the EU, an increasingly pressing problem as an intense heatwave sweeps through swathes of Europe on the back of months of reduced rainfall.

Five member states to win CAP plan green light

Discussions also centred around the adoption of the CAP national strategic plans, through which member states will set out an individualised action plan of how they intend to meet the nine objectives of the new CAP reform.

However, after suffering a number of setbacks, the Commissioner confirmed that the Commission will launch the official approval process for five member states, including Portugal, Poland, Spain, Denmark, and France, with more on their way.

“We consider up to 10 member states may submit a new version before the summer break,” the Commissioner said.

This process is expected to take approximately 6 weeks, he said, meaning the first adoption decisions will fall in early September.

Source: Euractiv