€15 billion for nature at stake in crunch farm vote

A much-anticipated vote on the future of EU farm subsidies will take place in the European Parliament’s agriculture committee next Tuesday.

All eyes are on the committee’s 46 MEPs to see if they will follow the lead of the Environment committee which backed higher environmental ambition to the tune of 15 billion euro for nature protection in the next farm subsidy scheme in February.

Every seven years, there is a chance to change the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) when it is reformed, and the next policy is set to cover the years 2021 to 2027. But this year was the first time the Parliament’s Environment committee had a say on CAP reform alongside the Agriculture committee.

However, the future of EU farm policy will very much be in the hands of the next Commission and MEPs as there is no time left before the European elections for an all-MEP plenary vote.

While in theory the next European Commission could throw out the current proposal and come up with a new one from scratch, environmental campaigners say that whatever position the agriculture committee adopts next Tuesday is crucial as it is likely to set the tone for the next political term.

Nearly €60 billion of EU taxpayers’ money is spent on the CAP every year, most of which subsidises industrial farming, with huge amounts of crops grown to feed animals raised in cramp conditions for the ever-growing export market. This has contributed to land becoming sterile and the current climate crisis.

Animal agriculture is responsible for around 16.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, equivalent to the emissions from the combustion of all transport fuels.

Scientists have issued repeated warnings that significant reductions in meat consumption are essential to avoid dangerous climate change and that Europe must halve its meat and dairy production by 2050 to ensure sustainability of the livestock sector.

So far, over 96,000 people have signed an EU-wide petition demanding a rethink of how we grow, share and consume our food and an end to the current system of EU subsidies which heavily support damaging intensive agriculture.

Bérénice Dupeux, Agriculture Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), called for “higher environmental ambition in the next EU farm subsidy scheme” and for environmental laws on farms to be “truly enforced”.

Dupeux said:

“Public money should not be used to support agricultural intensification. We need to move away from a farm subsidy system that exacerbates climate change and environmental destruction, damages rural communities, public health, and, crucially, current and future generations’ ability to produce healthy and safe food. Given the environmental and climate urgency there is no time to lose.