MEP: Green agriculture movement in Germany is growing fast

In the new European Parliament, Martin Häusling, an organic farmer by trade, belongs to the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee and has been reelected Greens/EFA’s spokesperson in the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. [Martin Häusling]

This article is part of our special report The environment in the new CAP.

The movement pushing for a more environmentally friendly agricultural sector is increasingly gaining ground in Germany, Green MEP Martin Häusling told EURACTIV Germany in an interview.

“We have a strong agricultural alliance in Germany that is promoting a transition to a climate- and environmentally resilient agriculture,” Häusling said.

“It is still small as it represents about 10% of the whole trade but the movement is gaining momentum,” he added.

Häusling, who is a spokesperson of the Greens/EFA in the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, said there were two sides emerging in Germany when it comes to agricultural matters: the proponents of small-scale, regional, organic farming, and the backers of large-scaled, industrial-based farming.

Häusling said organic and regional products are on the rise, upon consumers’ demand. He added the pricing situation for organic farmers is “way better” than that of conventional farmers, which also explains the growth of organic farming in Germany.

“Growth for organic farming hovers at between 8 and 10% a year. But that’s not only a German trend, it is a European trend,” he said.

Conventional farming in the country is represented by organisations like the Deutsche Bauernverband (Farmers’ Union).

“The Farmers’ Union also says it wants the CAP to become greener, but it does not walk the talk. It wants the first pillar to stay as it is. But in our view, the direct payment system cannot be beneficial to the environment,” he said.

The first pillar of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy represents direct payments to farmers, while the second pillar is funds related to rural development.

The environment in the new CAP

Greens have strongly criticised the European Commission for what they say is a lack of concern for the environment in its proposals for the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy.

Outcome on CAP’s reform unknown

Häusling also said that at the EU level, Germany could be “influential enough” when it comes to adopting initiatives in favour of fighting global warming and biodiversity losses in the future CAP.

But up until now, it “hasn’t work that well” with current Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, even though there are some astute initiatives coming from Germany that could be picked up at the European level, like the recent anchoring of the protection of biodiversity in the Bavarian constitution, the German MEP said.

Häusling said his group expects from the new European Commission to present a revised proposal of the CAP reform.

“It will then need to find a majority in the new European Parliament and this will be a bit of suspense as the two main parties no longer have the majority. Yes, the Greens/EFA group gained more members but I cannot say what the outcome will be like,” he said.

The Greens/EFA Group has now five representatives in the Agriculture Committee, the new liberal group “Renew Europe” sends seven parliamentarians, while the Progressive Alliance of Social Democrats (S&D) is represented with ten members.

The European People’s Party (EPP) will have twelve members, making it the largest group of the 48 committee members, of whom the German Norbert Lins will be the agricultural policy coordinator for the CDU. Lins grew up on a dairy farm near Ravensburg (southern State of Baden-Württemberg).

The new members of the Environmental Committee have also been appointed. While the Agriculture Committee is primarily concerned with EU agricultural policy and rural issues, the Environment Committee is in charge of food safety and the use of pesticides.

With 76 members, the Environment Committee is the largest committee of the European Parliament. The EPP will send 18 MEPs, the S&D 16 members and the Liberals of Renew Europe will be represented by eleven parliamentarians.

The Green/EFA group now has eight members while the GUE/NGL Group is represented by five MEPs. Five members of the Committee on the Environment do not belong to any political group. Frenchman Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe) has been elected chair of the Committee.

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos]

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