Bulgarian, Romanian farmers take part in EU sustainable farming event
Brussels - Today Bulgarian and Romanian farmers together with their colleagues from across Europe met with prominent Members of the European Parliament from the Agricultural Committee in Brussels to explain what is needed to improve the rural development policy in the next Common Agricultural Policy. These expert farmers all undertake environmental practices that protect biodiversity and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their regions.
MEPs Karin Kadenbach (S&D) and Marit Paulsen (ALDE) and WWF have helped bring farmers from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Italy as well as Romania and Bulgaria to Brussels. These farmers show that far from increasing costs, employing environmental measures can create successful, profitable farm enterprises.
In his introduction to the event Tony Long, Director of the WWF European Policy Office, said, “Rural development must be at the heart of the next Common Agricultural Policy if rural jobs, rural livelihoods and rural vitality are to be secured in the next reform. Farm improvement programmes and local rural development projects not only help secure the prosperity of rural areas – they are vital too for environmental protection and the conservation of scarce resources like water and soils. Greening the direct payments to farmers is essential but on their own this direct support is not enough to secure thriving and diverse nature. Financial support for rural development programmes of the kind WWF has pioneered over the past two decades needs to be doubled under the Commission’s proposals.”
MEP Karin Kadenbach acknowledged the work of the farmers by saying, “I heard today that balancing the needs of agriculture, the environment and rural communities is possible and can support job creation. The EU Parliament needs to take these voices into consideration when drafting the future Rural Development Policy over the coming months, and see how we can adequately support farmers who want to follow a more sustainable path."
MEP Martin Paulsen also commented, “Agricultural policy is our main environmental policy. The agricultural sector is a part of the problem today but will need to be the key solution in the coming years, if we are to cope with our main global challenges, climate change, food security, clean water and biodiversity.”
But what are farmers saying?
Dalmasso Vincent, a successful sheep and fruit farmer from Romania commented, “Rural development policies should foresee and ensure the involvement of farmers and other land administrators in the design of effective and practical conservation action plans for different sites, based on habitat and species research. Furthermore, financing mechanisms that recognise all nature related benefits and reward farmers as “stewards of the land” should be developed.”
Roberto Di Muzio, who farms in the Abruzzo region of Italy explained, “I feel that rural development should devote more resources and measures to addressing biodiversity protection, water efficiency and the combat against climate change. In Natura 2000 and High Natural Value Areas more emphasis and support should be given to the implementation of large scale agro-environmental agreements that favour expenditure in the right areas.”
According to Teri Lee Eriksson who farms in Erekö Sweden, “We believe that there is a need for more focus on sustainable productive farming and a broader perspective on approved measures regarding EU subsidies for environmental improvements in the field of agriculture”.
The Position of WWF on Rural Development
WWF considers it essential that at least 50% of the next CAP budget (2014-2020) needs to be allocated to rural development (Pillar II) so that it can meet the environmental goals and support sustainable local development. We also want to ensure that there is no movement in funds from “Pillar II (rural development)” to “Pillar I (direct payments)”.
WWF also believes that it is vital that 50% of Pillar II funding should be ring-fenced for environmental measures.
Higher aid intensity for small/High Natural Value farmers and other potential beneficiaries from Natura 2000 who are going the extra mile to protect the environment should be rewarded for this.