European Agriculture Commissioner Janus Wojciechowski says a switch to organic farming could be a last resort for most small and medium-sized farms.
Especially now that energy and fertilizers are only becoming more expensive due to the Russian war against Ukraine, switching to an agriculture without chemicals only makes more sense, Wojciechowski said on Tuesday in Strasbourg to French, Flemish and Dutch agricultural journalists.
For tens of thousands of family farms, especially in Eastern and Central Europe, 'organic' will be the only option to survive as an agricultural farm, Wojciechowski expects. He refers to the past twenty years in which the number of small and medium-sized companies has been steadily decreasing, in all EU countries. In that period, 4 million small farms disappeared in the EU.
Supporters and opponents in the European Parliament actually agreed in Strasbourg on Tuesday that not one agricultural package can apply to all 27 EU countries. Not only are the geographical differences and landscape types too great for this, but there are also too great differences in consumption, capacity and spending behaviour.
For example, a resident of Poland spends an average of 4 euros per year on organic food, and 300 euros in Denmark. For example, the size of an average farm in France, Germany or Italy is two to three times as large as in Malta or Cyprus. For example, almost every Dutch or Danish village has an organic shop, but in Poland you have to drive 80 kilometers for it.
Wojciechowski responded with satisfaction and agreement to the report that the European Parliament adopted on Tuesday on its 25-point plan. Last March, he presented the EU action plan for the development of organic production, which had already been announced in the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy.
These strategies are part of the European Green Deal accepted by the European Parliament, but are controversial in agricultural circles because it contains many climate and environmental aspects. Moreover, according to many, too little account is taken of agricultural practice on the farm. Wojciechowski thinks the current agricultural policy is a good compromise between ecologists and farmers, he said in his explanation
Austrian MEP Simone Schmiedtbauer, as rapporteur for the agriculture committee, has been drafting a farmer-friendly version of Wojciechowski's organic plan in recent months. In her report, on the one hand, the importance of 'switching to organic' is supported and emphasized, but on the other hand the 'target figure' of 25 percent organic farming is abandoned (and not even mentioned!).
The Dutch MEP Mohammed Chahim (PvdA) said: “It is important that we make the agricultural sector more sustainable and that a significant part of the agricultural land is allocated to organic, organic farming. This is not only better for the environment, but also for animal welfare.”
The United Left and the Greens have tried to get that 'target number' of a quarter of organic agriculture by 2030 in the texts through an amendment, but there was no majority for that. The EP voted overwhelmingly in favor of Schmiedtbauer's "more nuanced" and "farmer-friendly" version of Wojciechowski's "raw version" of the bio-action plan.