“Vote for our future”. Copa-Cogeca, the umbrella organisation of European farmers and cooperatives, called on all its members to vote in the upcoming European elections, spelling out its demands for the EU’s future agricultural policy. EURACTIV Germany reports.
In a statement launched ahead of the election, Copa-Cogeca called on the European Union to preserve the budget of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which is expected to suffer cuts in the next long-term programming period (2021-2027).
The statement calls on the EU to make agriculture more attractive to young farmers, notably by investing more in the bioeconomy, as well as research and development.
The May European elections will be particularly important for farmers, said Joachim Rukwied, President of the German and European Farmer’s Association. With 38% of the EU budget, the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) takes up the biggest share of EU spending. Hardly any other sector is as tightly controlled by the EU legislature.
“In these elections, we get to vote for our future. That’s why it is important to vote,” Rukwied said.
In the joint statement, farmer associations focused on financing, economic growth, research and environmental protection. Copa-Cogeca calls for a stable policy framework for farmers and opposes proposed cuts to the CAP budget and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
“For the agricultural sector to thrive, it needs to rely on the support of European institutions and national governments,” said Pekka Pesonen, the organisation’s Secretary General.
Under European Commission proposals, agricultural policy will suffer a 5% budget cut in the EU’s next long-term budget. However, farmers fear the actual cuts will be far greater. Under the current budget, Germany receives approximately €6.2 billion per year.
Farmers are also calling for greater support to young farmers. “It is fair to say that current measures in the CAP, targeted at boosting young farmer participation in agriculture, have not been very effective,” the statement says.
Other requests include the promotion of research and greater access to modern genetic engineering methods for plant breeding. Farmers also showed support for the abolition of tariffs on non-EU mineral fertilisers.
Turning to pesticides, Copa-Cogeca calls for new alternatives to plant protection products which are removed from the market, saying the lack of alternatives damages the competitiveness of European agriculture.
Copa-Cogeca is quite upbeat about climate protection policies, saying European farmers, and forest owners can become “true masters of carbon sequestration and storage”. However, they say this would require a coherent policy from Brussels, as well as greater flexibility and simplification of current rules.
Existing climate protection rules are financed by the CAP’s so-called “second pillar”. But those are seen as too rigid and a large share of the funds are still being used to support industrial farms rather than smallholdings and organic farms.
Looking to future opportunities, farmers are placing their bets on the bioeconomy, which the European Commission sought to promote in a strategy published last October. A lot of their hopes now are being placed in follow-up plans to be adopted by the next Commission to push forward the bioeconomy.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]