German environment ministry proposes a social contract for green agriculture

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) doubts that the current CAP agreement will be sufficient to meet the Green Deal targets. [EPA-EFE | Filip Singer]

German environment minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) is hosting a virtual agricultural congress on Wednesday (13 January) to discuss sustainable agriculture and the connection between food production, environment and climate. At the centre, however, is a social contract. EURACTIV Germany reports

What is immediately noticeable when looking at the program of the Agricultural Congress of Germany’s Environment Ministry (BMU) is a missing name. Julia Klöckner (CDU), the agriculture minister, will not be present. instead, her State Secretary Beate Kasch, together with counterpart from the BMU, Jochen Flasbarth, will give a talk on the German CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027.

Although it is the BMU’s agricultural congress, the topics on the agenda largely fall under the responsibility of the Agriculture Ministry (BMEL).

Top priority these days when it comes to the future of the agricultural sector is the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

While Klöckner and the BMEL hardly miss an opportunity to emphasise the progressiveness of the CAP agreement, the BMU and Schulze do not view it as a real breakthrough. The BMU criticises the CAP’s lack of climate protection ambitions, a view shared by EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermanns.

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A social contract for sustainable agriculture

The BMU argues that the CAP reform agreement reached by EU agriculture ministers in October will not be sufficient to implement the Biodiversity Strategy and Farm to Fork Strategy under the Green Deal.

Instead, they now want to rely on member states to create a climate-friendly agricultural sector. At Wednesday’s conference, scientists, politicians, and practitioners will discuss the agency’s proposal for the CAP strategic plan.

This strategic plan aims to make the agricultural sector fit for the future.

According to Alexander Müller, managing director of the think tank TMG, this is about much more than reconciling agricultural and environmental policy. He believes a social contract could trigger a long overdue debate.

“A social contract means that we bring together the environment, agriculture, health, water management, consumers and everyone involved with food in such a way that we can agree on elementary questions: What do we want from agriculture and what are we willing to pay for it?” he said.

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Brussels cites problems in the German agricultural sector

At the end of this social contract, there must be an answer to the question of how we can jointly contribute to sustainable agriculture, Müller said in an interview with EURACTIV Germany.

The need for action is clear to him, at least since the EU Commission issued its recommendation for CAP implementation in Germany in December. In it, the Commission identifies glaring structural problems in German agriculture that go far beyond issues of climate protection in the agricultural sector.

For example, the EU calls on Germany to strengthen the position of farmers in the food production value chain and to make the national agricultural sector more attractive to young farmers. But it also highlights issues in climate adaptation, biodiversity and water and soil management.

Against this backdrop, the German government is urged to ensure that the new CAP in the country actually ensures that public money is spent on public goods – in other words, subsidies for sustainable agriculture.

Müller therefore pleads for a paradigm shift: “Anyone who believes that business as usual contains any solution is mistaken.” That’s why new approaches will be needed, he said.

The current CAP agreement is not enough for Müller, and that’s why he sees Wednesday’s agricultural congress as an important resource to bring together the different interests.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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