Green Deal poses ‘opportunities and threats’ to Spanish farming, stakeholders warn

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This article is part of our special report Sustainable farming ambitions: between the CAP and the Green Deal.

The European Green Deal offers opportunities and challenges to Spanish farmers, stakeholders have warned, highlighting that Spain needs more support in the transition towards a more sustainable model of agriculture. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports.

The European Commission’s Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies lie at the heart of the ambitious roadmap set out by the Commission in the European Green Deal, whose goal is transforming the EU into a climate-neutral economy by 2050.

The Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, the EU’s flagship food policy, sets out concrete targets for greening the sector, including a 50% reduction in the use and risk of pesticides, a 50% reduction in the sales of antimicrobials, and a goal of reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming.

However, ten months after its release in May 2020, farmers’ organisations are optimistic about the future of the sector but also voice concern over the idea of “meeting more requirements with less funds”.

The association Por otra PAC (‘For another CAP’), a coalition of 30 sustainable farming organisations comprising farmers, environmental NGOs and food experts who campaign for a different vision of the EU’s farming subsidy programme, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), supports the strategy, calling it a “first step” towards a green transition.

Fernando Viñegla, the coalition´s spokesperson, underlined that there are many examples in Spain showing that the change is a reality.

“The strategy is a great opportunity for Spain, a country vulnerable to climate change. If we work fast on sustainable options, the impact will be lower”, according to Viñegla.

He added that the diversity of Spanish agriculture is also a key advantage.

“The current model of agriculture is about to collapse and does not solve problems such as rural areas depopulation. Solutions are needed”, Viñegla added.

But in terms of public support, he said, Spain is worse positioned than countries like France or Germany, because they “are betting more on green investments and on a CAP with more participation of the territories concerned”.

Spain's agri-minister: We are EU's 'vegetable garden' thanks to innovation, quality

Spain is the “vegetable garden of Europe” and the sector remains competitive thanks to a combination of quality, innovation and meeting consumer demands, the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, told EURACTIV’s partner EFE agro.

EU ‘shooting itself in the foot’

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Sustainable Farming (ALAS), a group representing a majority of Spanish farmers organisations, warned that new green demands coming from Brussels have fallen at an inappropriate time, given the difficulties facing the sector during the coronavirus crisis, adding that this threatens the competitiveness of EU agriculture.

According to the president of ALAS, Pedro Gallardo, the EU is “shooting itself in the foot” with proposals that “risk EU´s own capacity to ensure food security”.

Moreover, Gallardo said more support is needed for the environmental measures that the Spanish government is considering in preparation of its national CAP strategic plan, stressing that demands on farmers “cannot be increased” if they don´t receive further public aid.

Spain is the EU member state with the highest percentage of agricultural land under organic farming.

With 2.35 million hectares of organically farmed land, this puts the country in third place worldwide behind Australia and Argentina, according to the Spanish Professional Association of Organic Farming Ecovalia.

The regions of Catalonia, Andalusia and Navarra are already close to the 25% target set by the European Commission.

Specific climatic conditions

Regarding the F2F, Gallardo also noted that Spain needs more phytosanitary products than Finland or the Baltic countries due to climatic factors and the country’s geographic proximity to Africa, where “the same environmental requirements are not met”.

In that regard, he said, the reduction target set by the Commission for the use of phytosanitary products looks like “promoting a health policy that would mean a reduction of medicines available in a pharmacy”.

ALAS upholds that the EU should increase its productivity and promote “innovation tools” such as genetic editing.

In a similar vein, a report from PWC about agriculture in Spain concludes that “the use of new technologies, new varieties, genetic editing and a strong bet on research” are the right solutions for farmers.

[Edited by Natasha Foote/Gerardo Fortuna]

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