In early 2018 we launched the European Agricultural Policy Programme in Warsaw. Because of the European Union’s planned reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, we want to work to initiate a debate and exchange of views between various actors on the effects of the CAP as it is currently functioning, and on the improvements it requires.
Far-reaching reform of the EU’s agricultural policy is key to social and ecological transformation in Europe. Almost no other sector brings together economics, climate, soil and biodiversity protection, justice and democracy, and health as this sector does, and for us as a green political foundation, these fundamentally underpin our operations.
The Common Agricultural Policy is one of the greatest areas of cooperation for EU countries, and is allocated nearly EUR 60 billion each year, or approximately 40% of the joint budget. And in this, Poland is a key country.
Agriculture is one of those fields of human activity that have a monumental impact on the environment and on social relations. At the same time, agricultural production is always based on natural resources and processes. It is impossible to produce food, especially healthy and wholesome food, without fertile soil, clean water, the presence of pollinating insects, biodiversity and a well-functioning ecosystem.
Unfortunately, agriculture in its current form, in Europe and many other parts of the world, is degrading the environment, which long-term will not only lead to lower food quality but may even threaten the ability of rural areas to produce food. The current CAP promotes intense, industrialised agriculture and the concentration of land. High-intensity crops, monocultures, the use of huge amounts of chemical fertilisers and plant protection products, industrial animal farms – all of this is leading to the over-use and degradation of natural resources. This results in soil exhaustion and depletion, less biodiversity, the wiping out of pollinating insects and birds, and the pollution of waters. This in turn poses a threat even to agriculture itself.
The current shape of the EU’s agricultural policy is stamping its mark on social and economic relations. About 80% of CAP subsidies go to about 20% of European farmers to promote large-scale farms. This pushes smaller farmers out of the market, leading to the depopulation of much of the countryside, as well as increasing the distance between food producers and consumers. The agricultural policy does not adequately take into account the needs and interests of much of the rural population, which is encouraging Eurosceptic attitudes and discouraging participation in democratic processes.
Not for much longer can social acceptance be maintained for the investment of billions of euros in an agriculture that is contributing to climate change, environmental degradation and animal suffering. Partly due to Brexit, the CAP budget will be in question even more so than before. With the departure of Great Britain, the EU will be losing one of its net contributors. Without ambitious reform, it is very likely that the CAP budget will be cut. This may be fatal for farming, because ecological and social changes will be near impossible without adequate financial resources. It is therefore time to start fundamentally reforming the EU’s agricultural policy towards one that is based on environmental acceptance and reflects future social challenges.
The situation demands that a discussion begin, including in Poland, on what European agricultural policy will have to look like after 2020 in order to guarantee the sustainable development of rural areas and support farmers using sustainable production methods. In this dialogue we intend to involve representatives of various stakeholder groups from Poland and other European countries: agricultural, environmental protection and consumer organisations; local governments; politicians; national government; and scientists.