24th April, 2017
The ‘Living Land’ Campaign was established with the goal of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. The campaign was started by BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and WWF EU, but its vision goes far beyond environmental issues. Europe’s food and farming system needs fundamental reform and ‘Living Land’ seeks to enrich the debate around the European Commission’s Public Consultation on CAP. Essentially, the campaign is about contributing to progressive farming.
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- The CAP makes up approximately 38 % of the EU budget – i.e. € 58 billion. It was introduced in 1962 with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity to ensure food security and stabilize markets before being reformed several times to adapt to new challenges and priorities such as the environment.
- Less than a third of these subsidies are actually linked to ‘Greening Measures’ – sustainable farming practices intended to address environmental and climate change concerns relating to soil quality, biodiversity and natural carbon storage afforded by soils, plants and trees.
- €58 billion of taxpayers’ money is spent annually to subsidize largely industrial food production. Efforts to link these payments to more sustainable farming practices have run into strong opposition from those who profit most from this system. 80% of the CAP budget goes to just 20% of farm businesses, often the richest and largest ones.
- The aim of this campaign is to unite organisations and concerned citizens to call on decision-makers to fundamentally rethink our agricultural policies. By calling for shorter supply chains, we will encourage rural employment, we will bring about a reduction of chemical use by incentivizing natural pest control.
Is the Food & Farming system broken?
At the various stages between field and fork, there are currently many activities and practices that have very demanding consequences: economic impacts for farmers who are receiving less and less money for their products; social impacts for shrinking rural communities; and health impacts for people who need to eat better food and drink better water.
All of this is without even considering the environmental impacts of intensive farming that range from climate change to widespread loss of wildlife caused by habitat destruction, water and air pollution and soil degradation.
CAP the key to fixing our broken food system
The biggest driver behind our food system here in Europe is the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy. As it currently stands, CAP is making our socio-economic, health and environmental problems worse by perpetuating unsustainable practices. This could be easily corrected with smarter policies.
A reformed CAP could ensure prosperity for a new generation of empowered, nature-friendly farmers. It should ensure that farmers are rewarded for keeping our landscapes green, home to thriving wildlife, and our water and air clean. Furthermore, it should help renew rural areas by bringing new people into farming and it should provide all Europeans with the nutritious, safe and tasty food that we need for a healthy balanced diet.
What are the problems with the Irish countryside?
- Farmland bird numbers have plummeted by 55% in < 30 years.
- Nearly 1/4 of our bumble bees, important pollinators of our food crops, are facing extinction.
- Wildlife habitats are destroyed by the removal of hedges, drainage of wetlands, and the loss of meadows, pesticides and fertilizers are killing bees and butterflies and polluting rivers, big changes in sowing dates and harvesting dates are interrupting breeding seasons and the change from mixed farms to moncultures (huge fields of one type of crop) means that many species are losing their basic food supply.
- Farmland covers half of the EU’s land area – this is a large scale problem.
The bottom line – A Window of Opportunity
Evidence shows that recent reforms have failed to make CAP more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Even the European Commission has been forced to admit that the CAP has become outdated.
The Public Consultation is open from 2 February – 2 May, 2017. There is only one week left to take the online public questionnaire to be filled out by both citizens and stakeholders. The results of the questionnaire will contribute directly to the Commission’s Impact Assessment on the current CAP. Together with further discussions, evidence gathering and lobbying this will lead to legislative proposals for the next CAP being produced by the Commission. The public consultation is a window of opportunity for consumers, environmentalists, progressive farmers, food and health experts, animal welfare campaigners and others to make our voices heard.
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