A healthy natural environment underpins healthy farming systems

Friday 25th January 2013

Yellow wagtail cpt Amy LewisYellow wagtail cpt Amy Lewis

The voting on a new Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) by EU Agriculture Committee MEPs last week was not only a missed opportunity to create a fair and green agricultural system across Europe, but a retrograde step for sustainable land management and its wildlife.

Members of the European Parliament may have agreed, in principle, that a greater proportion of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to farmers should be linked to environmental measures.  However, they also supported exemptions that will undermine that principle.

A healthy natural environment underpins healthy farming systems and food security

These exemptions mean that cash could be wasted on paying farmers twice to undertake only basic ‘greening’ measures, potentially reducing the funding available for higher level agri-environment schemes which have multiple benefits for wildlife, water quality, flood management and carbon sequestration and storage.  The Committee also rejected proposals that would protect carbon-rich soils and help improve the condition of rivers and streams that run across farmland.

More than £3 billion a year is paid to land-owners in the UK through CAP but only a small amount is currently spent on securing environmental outcomes.

Helen Perkins, Living Landscape Development Manager, said:

‘We urgently need a ‘greener’ Common Agricultural Policy, which helps farmers to halt and reverse damage to soils, wetlands, wildlife-rich grasslands and other habitats across farmland in Europe.  A healthy natural environment underpins healthy farming systems and food security.  For example, it provides pollinating insects for crops and natural predators for controlling pests.

"As things stand, however, farmers will be paid twice for ‘token’ greening which will reduce the amount of money for genuine environmental improvement.  This investment is desperately needed to help reverse the decline of species such as bats, bees and birds like yellow wagtail, lapwing and starling.  Without it farmers will not have sufficient incentives to play their part in changing the way our land is managed.

"These decisions are incredibly short-sighted and we now need to campaign hard to ensure that the EU Parliament rejects the damaging proposals and agrees a policy that reflects the fact that nature underpins sustainable farming”.

A template letter urging Members of the European Parliament to vote for a ‘greener’ CAP will be available to send to your local MEP on this website from Monday 18 February 2013.

This vote in the Agriculture Committee, which took place on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 January, was the first part of the decision-making process.  It will be followed by a vote of all MEPs in the European Parliament in mid-March.

Tagged with: Living Landscapes