Farmers' protests. What concessions will the EC agree to regarding the Green Deal?

Luc Williams

A breakthrough moment for the ongoing debate on the future of European agriculture was when agricultural communities from Western Europe joined the protests of the countries bordering Ukraine. After a wave of strikes and road blockades swept across almost the entire continent, including the largest EU countries such as Germany and France, European Commission decided to respond to at least some of the protesters' demands. Although demonstrations and blockades were initially the result of the import of Ukrainian agricultural products to the EU, for several months the regulations related to the implementation of Green Deal.

EC's proposals for concessions

For the boss EC Ursula von der Leyen the green transformation was the flagship strategy pushed throughout the first term, which expires in July. However, during the campaign, as the leading candidate of the European People's Party, the Commission President intends to take a step back and abandon some of the regulations that impose additional burdens on farmers. This includes: about GAEC standardsi.e. standards of proper management, consistent with the principles of environmental protection, the full implementation of which today determines obtaining direct subsidies.

Unofficially, there is even talk of a possibility abolition of four out of eight standards, including, among others: regarding mandatory land fallowing, minimizing tillage to prevent soil erosion, and mandatory cultivation of cover crops between seasons. Farmers who did not meet these standards would still receive direct payments, and those who would like to adapt to them would receive financial compensation. However, it is not known how many of the unofficially circulating proposals will be announced today – some of them were announced by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, whose announcements were denied by EC spokesmen.

Wojciechowski also mentioned among his ideas to support farmers exemption for farmers owning less than 10 hectares of land (two-thirds of all farms receiving subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy)from inspections and penalties. The proposals would also include strengthening the position of farmers in supply chains and more transparent and accurate monitoring of the situation on the agri-food market. However, it is doubtful that Brussels will decide on a complete revision Green Dealwhich was requested by farmers not only from Poland, but also from many other EU countries.

Will concessions to farmers open Pandora's box?

After today's presentation of solutions for farmers, Brussels can potentially avert one of the most serious sectoral crises in the EU today, but on the other hand, it may open a Pandora's box with the expectations of many other industries. Additionally, von der Leyen intends to maintain the green agenda, which will be difficult when granting further derogations – either for farmers or other professional groups that will feel the cost of the green transformation.

In this week's report European Environment Agency indicated agriculture as a sector that, if it does not apply pro-environmental green solutions, may soon struggle with the effects of natural disasters, including floods, heatwaves or floods, for which compensation and compensation will have to be paid. And alone Common Agricultural Policy, i.e. de facto a subsidy program for farms, today it constitutes 1/3 of the entire EU budget.

Farmers' protests on March 20

Meanwhile, Polish farmers have announced the continuation of the protests, which are scheduled to culminate on March 20. During the previous meeting with the government, farmers only heard assurances that a mechanism would be developed to resell the 4 to 5 million tons of grain remaining in warehouses from the previous harvest. The remaining proposals depend on news from Brussels, but good ground may be provided by information from Strasbourg, where, thanks to amendments by PO MEP Andrzej Halicki, the trade liberalization regulation with Ukraine restrictions on the import of not only sugar, poultry and eggs from Ukraine, but also honey, corn, wheat, oats and barley. Moreover, in line with previous demands, it was possible to push through 2021 as the base year for calculating potential excessive imports, and not 2022 as the EC wanted. Now, however, the amended regulation will return to consultations with the Member States and the Commission – negotiations are scheduled to start next week. The agreement with Ukraine liberalizing trade with the EU expires on June 5, but the last opportunity to adopt the regulation will be the end of April, when the last EP meeting of this term will be held.


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