October 24, 2020

Farm Industry Lobby Threatens European Green Goals


The lobby of the large agricultural producers threatens the European green objectives. This is the conclusion reached by an investigation by the Corporate Observatory entity to which eldiario.es has had access. The research focuses on the use of the powerful CAP, the common European agricultural policy: the EU dedicates 34.5% of the total 2020 budget (58 billion euros) in the Common Agricultural Policy, and the CAP budget for 2021-2027 will amount to 344 billion euros or 32% of the Multiannual Financial Framework.

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However, the study recalls that “despite all those billions of money from the CAP, 25% of all EU farmers have gone bankrupt in the last decade because they did not earn enough, while 80% of the CAP funding went to 20% of the largest landowners. ”

The NGO highlights that, despite the fact that “insects are crucial for the health of ecosystems and the pollination of crops, 30% of insects are threatened, especially bees, due to intensive agriculture and various types of pollution. , like pesticides and fertilizers. ” Even the 2020 report of the European Court of Auditors concludes that the proposed CAP reforms are not effective in halting the decline of biodiversity on agricultural land.

At the same time, the research recalls that European intensive livestock farming, “heavily subsidized through the CAP, is responsible for at least 10% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions”.

“Large agricultural lobbies and large agricultural industry are pushing for a status quo for the CAP, which would significantly undermine the objectives of the European Commission’s farm-to-plate and biodiversity strategies,” the report states: It is a it is fighting over the EU’s bigger budgetary policy, the Common Agricultural Policy, its reform and the new EU ecological ambitions in relation to the European Green Deal.

The new farm-to-fork ambitions, as announced by the European Commission this spring, which foresee a 50% reduction in pesticide use in 10 years; a 50% reduction in the use of antibiotics; and a 20% reduction in the use of fertilizers, will be burdened if they are not included in the CAP.

While the CAP reform is nearing a key vote in the European Parliament next week, internal documents obtained by Corporate Observatory show that the lobby of farmers and agroindustries Copa-Cogeca (of which Coag, Asaja and UPA are members), together with that of pesticides and giants of the food industry, aim to accelerate the reform of the CAP “in order to greatly undermine the objectives of farm-to-fork strategies and biodiversity “.

“The German presidency of the EU supports this disastrous plan,” says the NGO, “which undermines the ecological ambitions of the European Commission.”

The documents obtained for this research show that it is the beginning of a great battle against the EU’s green strategies. “The tactics used by Copa-Cogeca and the pesticide industry (Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and their lobby, ECPA) focus on pressuring European officials or commissioners to claim that the proposed targets are not ‘realistic or effective’.

According to the report, “Bayer told the European Commission that it would have to ‘reinvent itself’, while Syngenta is holding meetings with European officials. On the other hand, Copa-Cogeca has mobilized its national entities, such as the Deutschen Bauernverband, the Dutch LTO and the French FNSEA, to put direct pressure on the European Commission. ”

The documents, the report relates, show a certain change of opinion in the Community Executive. While from the beginning European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, Green Pact Vice President Frans Timmermans have vigorously advocated farm-to-fork and biodiversity strategies so far. “However,” says the investigation, “a document shows how officials from the General Directorate of Agriculture have tried to weaken the biodiversity strategy.”

Industry pressure is also influencing the fight against inequality: most member states and Copa-Cogeca “want a ‘voluntary’ limit on the subsidies that each farmer can receive, rather than a mandatory one, which could mean no limits and that most public subsidies continue to go to large landowners and even oligarchs “, the research states:” Even the definition of what is a ‘genuine farmer’ could exclude certain small producers from access to the it helps if the Copa-Cogeca advice is followed “.

The report also shows how Copa-Cogeca and agribusiness in general “enjoy privileged access to decision-makers in the European Commission and in the European Parliament, in particular through so-called ‘groups of civil dialogue “. In 2019, Copa-Cogeca chaired no less than eight of the 13 of these groups, and occupies, for example, 28 seats (out of 72) in the civil dialogue group on issues related to the CAP, where direct payments are discussed. and greening.

“Copa-Cogeca positions strongly support the status quo, including uneven distribution of subsidies and lack of green ambition in the CAP; they are often aligned with the pesticide and food industry, although the interest of the average farmer is quite different from the interests of these industries, “says Corporate Observatory:” An important finding of the research is that while it claims to speak on behalf of all farmers, the positions of the Copa-Cogeca lobby are strongly influenced by those of the industry. The reason is that farmers’ cooperatives, which are also represented by Copa-Cogeca, have been transformed over time into multi-million dollar agricultural companies. A study on the French member of Copa-Cogeca, FNSEA, shows that this’ union ‘ , co-director of France’s agro-industrial system for half a century, has a very strong control over the representation of farmers in the country and is dominated internally mind by large crop producers, cooperatives and agro-industries, while using the desperation of farmers to gain political influence. ”

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