The time pressure is growing. Although the negotiations on the future EU agricultural policy have not yet been finalized, the member states are already negotiating the new national strategic plans. Because they will definitely be queried. This is intended to give the member states greater leeway in the distribution of funding.
In Germany, however, the last sessions of the Bundestag in this legislature are in June, after which the election campaign. When there will be a new federal government after the elections in September is open. That is why both Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) and her SPD colleague from the Environment Ministry, Svenja Schulze, want to conclude the negotiations before the summer break if possible. The aim is to avoid delays in the disbursement of EU funds.
However, they do not agree on the terms on which agricultural payments will flow in the future. Schulze wants – as the Federal Environment Minister presented it at an agricultural congress last week – to promote ecological projects by farmers in a more targeted manner in the future. From 2023, 30 percent of the direct payments planned for Germany from the Common Agricultural Policy (GAP) are to be used for ten possible measures for environmental and climate protection. This share is to increase gradually. Among other things, areas “with particular value for biodiversity” such as flower strips or hedges should be promoted. Funds are also earmarked for grazing and for farms that cut their pesticide use at least in half or keep a diverse crop rotation. The amount of funding is to be adapted to the duration of the respective measure and the agricultural area concerned.
“The most effective lever for the urgently needed changes is EU agricultural subsidies,” emphasized Schulze. The SPD politician sees herself strengthened by the EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who has already made it clear on several occasions that the national strategic plans must meet the requirements of the Green Deal.
A statement that was not well received by the EU Council and Julia Klöckner. During the German Council Presidency, she negotiated a minimum share of 20 percent as a compromise in the EU Council of Ministers, with a trial period of two years. So far, Klöckner has not submitted a proposal for the national strategic plan, but wants to wait for the opinions of her country colleagues first. In the case of further environmental and animal welfare requirements for agriculture, it has so far only been pushing for practical solutions. “There can only be regional production with regional farmers who are still there,” she said in Berlin last week. Klöckner emphasized that in spite of all prophecies of doom, this would result in an unprecedented binding force for EU payments from environmental guidelines. However, she clearly sees that she thinks little of the suggestions made by her colleague Schulze. Farmers are not landscape gardeners, they have to be able to live from their work, Klöckner told the newspapers of the Funke media group. “There can only be regional products if the local farmer is still there.”
The environment ministers of the federal states want to have a say about the EU funds; they too have developed a concept. According to the “Neuer Osnabrücker Zeitung” they are demanding a say. They make six proposals, some of which are detailed: permanent grassland should only be plowed up after approval, and strips of water along the river should be »sufficiently dimensioned«. In addition, five percent of the land is to be taken out of management.
Negotiations between the ministries on the planned Insect Protection Act are also proving to be tough. The Ministry of the Environment accused the agricultural resort of blocking, which in turn countered with the accusation of technical deficiencies in the previous draft. Klöckner said it was about insect protection, but also about protecting plants and securing crops. Maximum demands from the environmental department endangered the existence of orchards.