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06 Jul 2021, 13:25
Kerstine Appunn

Farming commission's proposals require next govt to undertake food system transformation - Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has called the compromise reached by the country’s Commission on the Future of Agriculture a significant step towards reconciling the different positions of stakeholders in the agriculture and food system. Based on the report, which was published and presented to the chancellor on Tuesday (6 July), Germany would have to create “reliable financial framework conditions” or else no actor in the farming and food system would undertake the tasks required for the transformation of the sector, Merkel said, adding that the report would mean a lot of work for the next German government. "For the sake of sustainability, we need a comprehensive transformation process, which has begun and must be vigorously pursued," she said. The proposals outlined in the report could turn the EU’s copious spending on agriculture into a “large sustainability project, which at the same time secures food supply and environmental protection,” Merkel said.

The commission, which brought together 31 farming and consumer representatives as well as environment organisations and researchers, published its report after ten months of deliberations. It includes recommendations for measures to protect the climate and biodiversity, ensure animal welfare and farm diversification, along with binding instruments to increase market transparency. Upon presenting the report to the chancellor, commission president Peter Strohschneider said that state subsidies in the agriculture sector would have to become outcome-oriented to be thoroughly aligned with societal goals. For the distribution of the EU Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP) funds, this means a gradual and eventually complete phase-out of land size-based direct payments to farmers. The current CAP period is to be considered a transitional phase towards that goal.

The commission’s report has been likened to the work of the 2019 coal commission, which by bringing together different stakeholders brokered a consensus for the country’s coal exit. As Germany has set itself the goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2045, there is a renewed focus on emissions from the agriculture and land use sectors. Earlier this year, the government took the first tentative steps towards a move away from area-based farming subsidies to payments based on the environmental performance of farmers.

Agriculture minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) said the attempt to achieve an economically viable and ecologically sustainable system would require a higher budget allocation for the sector. Environment minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) said the commission’s consensus means that major changes would be necessary because the current food system is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable but that the transformation would be cheaper for society and farmers in the medium term than the current system.

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