EU to Ax Green Farming Rules

What Happened: 

After months of farmer protests, the European Union has decided to ax green farming rules. Among many regulations, some of the most notable are the removal of the requirement to set aside land to promote biodiversity, tillage reduction, and farmers getting EU subsidies even without meeting the conservation requirements. Many farmers are happy, but many scientists fear what this may mean for the climate.

This reversal from Ursula von der Leyen and her commission comes after weeks of national governments requesting that the measures be changed to prevent further protests. Scientists and activists say that this has undone years of progress and argue that there will be long term consequences. Marco Contiero, a Greenpeace agricultural campaigner, says, “wiping out decades of incremental progress towards sustainable farming for short-term electoral concerns is a huge mistake, and all of society will pay a high price.”

The Details: 

Farmers protests had been making headline news weekly as more countries in the EU joined in on the protests. National governments struggled to contain the protests that blocked off roadways, burned tires in the street, and, in some cases, got violent with police being injured.

The protests were in regards to laws that “stifled” the farmers way of life. Reductions in land use, increased bans on pesticides, and reductions in subsidies all made farmers feel like their way of life was under attack. The EU recognized that there are holes in the proposals and has made moves to reduce some restrictions while keeping others.

The primary provisions being removed involve the requirements to receive the subsidy. They are as follows:

-GAEC 5-requires farmers to minimize tillage

-GAEC 6- requires farmers to grow cover crops between seasons to reduce erosion and return nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizer.

-GAEC 7- requires farmers to grow a series of different plants in the same area across growing seasons. This reduces the need for chemical pesticides.

-GAEC 8- requiring farmers to set aside 4% of their land for biodiversity.

There are also proposed policies, such as allowing farmers with less than ten hectares of land to be exempted from controls and regulations.

Policymakers say there is no need for concern with the sudden change in policy and that “the measures… do not weaken the climate and environmental ambitions of the CAP,” the commission said in a statement. In the draft, the commission argues that the measures are more realistic for farmers to achieve.

Many believe that this commission is only repealing parts of the Green Deal to secure the election. EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra stated that the bloc could accelerate green efforts once the elections are over. Others believe that the green deal can be better enforced when the farmer’s economy gets better. An anonymous EU official stated that “this legislative period has been extremely focused on only one pillar of sustainability, the environment, but we also need economic and social prosperity.” followed by “its not about rejecting the Green Deal, but about talking to farmers about how to achieve it.

What’s Next:

With EU elections taking place soon, the European “far right” attempted to capitalize on the angry farmers to secure more seats in the EU. Ursula von der Leyen and her bloc attempted to ease the anger of the farmers and likely save some seats in the process. Her campaign has suffered some bumps as the conservative parts of her party threaten to tear away over Green Deal fumbles.

The legislation to cut the proposals has not yet been passed, but it is likely going to be in the coming days. Numerous national governments have lowered their requirements on farmers in attempts to ease the protests. After the EU elections are finished, there will potentially be a renewed push from climate activists to reinforce the deal that is currently being watered down.

Analysis:

The ferocity of the farmers protest was a staunch warning to European lawmakers that farmers need a seat at the table when discussing climate policy. Many of the original provisions made it difficult for farmers to achieve the multiple requirements asked of them. The war in Ukraine and EU trade agreements with countries that have cheaper meat and produce posed a serious threat to farmers trying to sell their products in EU markets.

It is entirely possible that the EU may only relent long enough for elections to pass, but there will likely be an increased dialogue with farmers going forward.

Matthew Dellinger
Matthew Dellinger
Matthew Dellinger holds a Political Science and History BS and is working towards a Masters in Public Administration. Before his time at Atlas he joined GoodPolitical to serve as a writer and contributor while also expanding his knowledge on global events. Matthew is proud to be a part of a news organization that believes in delivering truthful, unfiltered, and unbiased news to people around the world.

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