6 Aug 2022 6:04 p.m
Under the pretext of nature conservation, at least four percent of current agricultural land is to be set aside from 2023. A regulation that, in view of the current shortage of grain, according to the plans of Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir, is now apparently to be suspended once.
Contrary to his original concerns, Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) apparently wants to allow German farmers to use agricultural land for the cultivation of certain crops for food production for longer in view of the looming grain crisis as a result of the Ukraine war. As the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced on Saturday, the compromise proposal presented on Friday by the Green politician provides for the controversial new EU regulations on set-aside land and crop rotation to be suspended once.
According to the compromise, the set-aside of four percent of all arable land for the development of so-called species protection areas, as planned in the EU Commission’s strategic plan for the conservation of animal and plant life, should not be carried out until 2024 instead of this year. Farmers could then continue to grow food on these areas in the coming year.
The background to this is the EU requirements that will take effect from 2023 as part of the so-called Green Deal. Among other things, these stipulate that part of the agricultural land should no longer be used for the production of food in the future, but for species protection. The cultivation of the same arable crops two years in a row on the same area should then no longer be possible for farmers in principle against the background of soil protection according to the plans of the EU. If the new regulations are not complied with, there is a risk of the loss of the EU direct payments urgently needed by most companies as part of the so-called basic income support. However, Brussels had left the implementation of the requirements to the respective EU states.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the first mandatory set-aside in Germany is to be suspended in the coming year in view of the looming grain crisis. Farmers should therefore continue to be able to cultivate agricultural crops, “however, in line with the objectives of the Commission proposal, limited to the production of food, and therefore to the crops of cereals (without corn), sunflowers and legumes (without soybeans),” it said in a statement of the ministry.
However, the derogation only applies to areas that were not already designated as fallow arable land in 2021 and 2022: “The existing areas of biodiversity will continue to be protected and can provide their services for nature and species protection as well as sustainable agriculture.” Özdemir has already submitted his compromise proposal to the federal states. However, the federal states still have to agree to this.
With the temporary suspension of strict environmental regulations, farmers are now temporarily able to grow wheat on the approximately 380,000 hectares of farmland that were previously set aside. According to scientific calculations, up to 3.4 million tons of wheat could be produced on this area in the coming year. This is the best way to “keep the grain yields in Germany stable and thus contribute to the stability of the world markets,” according to the ministry.
Özdemir’s concessions come as quite a surprise. Just a few weeks ago, the Federal Minister of Agriculture strongly criticized the EU Commission’s plans to temporarily relax the current environmental regulations for farmers against the background of the EU-wide grain crisis. He can only relax environmental regulations if he tightens them elsewhere, said Özdemir Neuen Osnabrücker Zeitung. He must now check that carefully. With the planned easing, the Commission is only evading the growing dissatisfaction of farmers and shifting responsibility to the member states, criticized the Green politician with a view to the growing protest movement among farmers.
“Instead of taking responsibility for a sustainable agricultural policy itself, the EU Commission is pushing the member states into the hole.” There are “significantly larger levers that Brussels has unfortunately not pulled,” Özdemir complained at the time.
More on the subject – Özdemir: “Organic farming is a brake on food security”