EU bets on bioeconomy to deliver farming aspects of the Green Deal

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski speaks to German Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner as they attend the International Green Week agricultural trade show on 17 January in Berlin. [BERRY/EC]

This article is part of our special report Bioeconomy in the CAP’s nine objectives.

You can also read this article in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.

The European Commission and the member states intend to use the concept of bioeconomy as a tool to achieve political priorities at the core of the bloc’s new environmental flagship policy when it comes to agriculture.

Speaking before the Agriculture Committee of the Croatian parliament in Zagreb, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said bioeconomy is a great opportunity for agriculture and farmers to play a critical role in making the European Green Deal a success.

“If we want to decarbonise our economies, we will need to produce more biomass in order to produce energy and bio-based materials and chemicals,” he said.

At last December’s Agrifish EU Council, Wojciechowski highlighted that the benefits the bioeconomy can deliver are fully in line with and can contribute to achieving the Green Deal’s political priorities.

As regards the practical side of the development strategy, the Commissioner focused his attention on applying a cross-sectoral, coherent and holistic approach, but also on the territorial dimension, which is crucial for bioeconomy.

“The role of policymakers at the national, regional and local level is very important to ensure developing locally rooted value chains but within a global strategic framework,” he said.

According to the Polish Commissioner, the promotion of these value chains, in which primary producers are fully and effectively integrated, is another pre-condition to achieve the objectives to create more skilful jobs and innovative know-how at the level of primary production.

Bioeconomy is also explicitly listed as part of the nine EU objectives and through national strategic plans laid down in the proposed CAP, all member states will outline how they want to meet these 9 EU-wide objectives, including the promotion of the bioeconomy, using the CAP tools.

“The proposed new delivery model is an opportunity for member states to develop tailor-made and more result-oriented interventions in this area,” Wojciechowski said.

Commission calls for bioeconomy strategies to be expanded and implemented

Under the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the European Commission will not approve the national strategic plan of a member state that does not include the promotion of the bioeconomy in agriculture, the EU’s farming Commissioner Phil Hogan said on Thursday (25 April).

Renewed interest

A new impetus to the development of the framework came after the Commission updated the bioeconomy strategy in October 2018.

Originally conceived eight years ago as a way to encourage Europe to be less dependent on petroleum, the updated strategy has expanded the Commission’s strategy from focusing mainly on the production of biofuels to any kind of bio-based industry.

The bioeconomy strategy now looks more at the concept of circular economy in general than at the mere re-use of energy, with the aim to strengthen and scale up an already vibrant European bio-based sector.

An evaluation of the revised EU Bioeconomy Strategy is expected during the ongoing Croatian EU presidency, looking at its implementation even beyond the sector of agriculture.

After the updated strategy was released, two high-level conferences on bioeconomy were hosted in a row by the two rotating presidencies of the Council of the EU in 2019, the Romanian and the Finnish ones.

Under the Romanians, the focus was directed more on the research and innovation aspects, also considering the value of measures included in the current research framework program Horizon 2020 and the forthcoming Horizon Europe.

The topic of agricultural research should be brought back in the discussion of bioeconomy, as it is a catalyst for the future of agriculture, the Romanian agriculture minister Petre Dea said last June during the informal meeting with other EU ministers dedicated to the topic.

In the discussion among ministers, the need to ensure that farmers are enabled to have access and can use this knowledge was often pointed out.

Bioeconomy, a smarter way of using agricultural resources

Giving biological resources such as residues and waste a second life means also making money out of the closing of the production circle. Bioeconomy promotes a smarter way of using and also conceiving these resources.

The Finnish presidency carried on with the discussion insisting that every member state should learn from one another, share best practices and adopt the “no one should be left behind” approach.

The Finns also highlighted the crucial role of farmers in achieving a European circular bioeconomy, but also of forest owners, who play an active role in tackling challenges linked to climate change.

EU agriculture ministers also stressed on several occasions that the added-value stemming from the bio-based value chains should be shared equally between the actors involved, including farmers, who are an integrated part of those value chains.

A third conference on bioeconomy is planned to be held by the end of April during the Croatian presidency, a Croatian diplomat told EURACTIV.

Bioeconomy is also explicitly mentioned in the programme of the Croatian presidency together with the emphasis on family farms and young farmers. In Zagreb, Commissioner Wojciechowski also underlined how the bioeconomy could provide a big boost to small and medium-sized family farms.

Private sector is part of the solution in bioeconomy, experts say

The private sector has a key role to play in promoting bioeconomy in the agrifood sector, high-level experts have told EURACTIV.com. However, they said the risk of depriving the food production system of organic resources must be weighed up.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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