Committee of the Regions, Brussels
As widespread protests from the agricultural community echoing across Brussels and Europe, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has issued a call for the European Union to re-evaluate the way it funds farmers.
This comes as the CoR held its first plenary session of 2024, while Belgian farmers besieged the European Parliament building outside.
This urgent plea comes as a response to the increasing threats posed by extreme weather, market fluctuations, and global crises, factors that have been pushing European farmers to the brink.
Nicola Caputo, the rapporteur and regional agricultural Minister for Campania, Italy, stressed the gravity of the situation.
“Europe must change its approach to agricultural policies. If not, the future of our farmers will be at risk”, he said.
“An innovative approach is needed. It is imperative to ensure the economic sustainability of farms.”
The CoR’s recommendations are outlined in a new report which describes the pressing need for the EU to use more tailored methods of distributing funds.
These measures aim to shield farmers from the financial shocks induced by epidemics, conflicts, and other crises, reinforcing the agricultural sector’s resilience.
The report, adopted unanimously during the first plenary session of 2024, proposes several key initiatives.
It urges the EU to place greater emphasis on addressing climate and energy crises, focusing on building resilient communities and enhancing the territorial cohesion of the EU. The establishment of a European system for mapping risks related to extreme weather events is recommended, with an emphasis on completing the Joint Research Centre’s work in this domain.
Additionally, the CoR calls for targeted and pre-emptive measures tailored to the needs and vulnerabilities of specific areas.
It highlights the importance of efficient utilization of crisis reserve funds, advocating for a mechanism that leverages available resources to provide practical responses for farms navigating the challenges arising from environmental changes.
The CoR also urges EU institutions and Member States to ensure that regions and local authorities have the necessary resources to address the specific insurance, financial, and mutual-fund needs of individual regions.
The strategic dialogue on agriculture is encouraged to incorporate climate response tools, aligning with the broader objective of sustainable and environmentally conscious food production.
These recommendations come in the backdrop of alarming statistics.
Eurostat data reveals that the EU lost 5.1 million farms (37%) between 2005 and 2020. European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Janusz Wojciechowski, has warned that up to 1,000 farmers could be losing their farms daily across the EU.
As the Strategic Dialogue on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) unfolds, the CoR’s opinion on risk management tools and market regulation mechanisms is poised to influence the trajectory of agricultural policies.
The CoR’s call for innovation, technology, investment, and the creation of a third social pillar in the future CAP echoes the sentiments of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
The urgency to address these issues resonates through the CoR’s report, emphasizing that neglecting the economic sustainability of farms not only jeopardizes the livelihoods of farmers but also undermines the fundamental principles of the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy.
As Europe grapples with the complex challenges facing its agricultural sector, the call for change reverberates, demanding a cohesive and adaptive approach to secure the future of European farmers.