Josip Jezic von Gesseneck    2016-04-28

The Future of Sustainable Farming

On sustainability, birds, and government support

Brussels, Agriculture

Politico hosts 'The Future of Sustainable Farming'

What are the biggest challenges to agriculture? Politico says sustainability. However, what is sustainability? 20% of farm holdings from 2007 have been sold. Not sustainable for farmers, not sustainable for nature (biodiversity, farmlands can be a good source). 57% of farmland birds have disappeared since 1980.

Genevieve Pons (WHO)

Tom Bradshaw (farmer)

Jim Nicholson (MEP since 1989)

David Wilkinson (senior procurement for Pepsico)

Tom - how to deal with issues of soil erosion? small 62ha farm on own, plus managing neighbors. More output per input without affecting environment. Soil erosion, water pollution, etc. Look at bird numbers since 2000 - on rise.
David - strategy is to buy produce close to to production - best quality of materials, lowest carbon footprint. Sustainability is more from less.Precision agronomy (also rolled out in Spain, Northern Europe, etc.). We need to work harder on incentivizing farmers to invest in the long term (drip irrigation v. rain guns, renewable energy - setting the climate - for the policy). Generational renewal is key - including young agricultural students, keeping them in small and large farms.
Jim - farmers are part of the solution, not the problem. All improvements have to be profitable, it's as simple as that. Banks are closing on younger, more progressive farmers, who have invested a lot in front, and are not able to meet commitments. Brussels has a responsibility to support them and to keep a closer connection to the farmers.
CAP reform: moderator asked why Hogan is so dismissive of previous reforms and denying responsibility. Hogan: we need to have evaluations to support our assertions. Milk quotas are in place since 2009? We need more involvement and more cash flow. 34million people directly and indirectly in agriculture.
Moderator: should we use public funds to help those less enthusiastic and efficient get out, so that the best can stay? Tom: even the most efficient now are feeling the pinch now!
To David: Do we need some more insurance to deal with price volatility? David: we're looking for productivity, direct negotiations with farmers, sustainable practices.
To Jim (MEP since 1989): JIm: we have a big report in parliament. Commission seems to be bypassing this particular problem of supermarket to farmer relations. Major major problem. Supermarkets will have to face up to this. Milk quotas (see 1980s) does not support the problem. Equitable agri-financing distribution to farmers is one of the key problems. Will not be solved by trade agreements with the rest of the world.
109 NGOs in Europe have written to Juncker to request policy fitness check (40% of budget) makes life difficult for farmers, threatens sustainability, etc.
Phil Hogan: MEPs, Council of Ministers continue. We have excellent deal in Nairobi WTO, where we give tariff-free access to Africans to export what they would like into the European Union. European Union and Africa agreed in November to tackle root causes of migration through agriculture. Farrmers are very good at dealing with market risks - so they should play an even greater role in sustainability. Already they do, but further evaluation will be required on being green, cross-compliance, etc. We have challenges on environmental and social aspects in agriculture but we need to do this through the farmers.
Jim: must read the mid-term review of the CAP (how to avoid supporting inefficient farmers). It's a question of survival. Not just farmers, but also machinery dealers and the other components of the value chain.
To Tom: is life more difficult with CAP, or worth it? 3 crops on 30hectares for biodiversity is not market oriented! Very complex to access the funds, could undo the previous work.
Tom: Conservation agriculture principles, we simply cannot farm without crop protection. However Genevieve says products (pesticides) with carcinogenic risks cannot be approved without further research and investigation (article 931 of treaty - about farmer health). Jim- pesticides are not a luxury, but necessity for producers.
Insects - Jim says would have to be profitable. We are eating too much meat in Europe (WHO) and insects are still meat. Tom - 80 glasshouses growing insects? ■