EU Farming Policy under Attack

On May 23, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament voted to reject the EU’s “Nature Restoration Law” draft bill, and the next day the Fisheries Committee followed suit. This is good news, as the EU draft bill calls reducing for agricultural land and fishing areas and restoring wildlife and wetlands, allegedly to “save the planet”. The package includes cutting by 50% the use of pesticides by 2030. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has warned that the EU policy would reduce food production by 30%.

The vote in the Committees was unexpected, and is due to a shift in the position of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP – the largest group in Strasbourg). On May 31, the EPP walked out of the talks in the Environment Committee, which has the power to block it.

“If the Commission is serious about nature restoration, it should come up with a new proposal as soon as possible”, commented Christine Schneider, who was leading negotiations for the EPP. She said that elements of the proposal made no sense, including restoring ecosystems to their historical status rather than taking a future-oriented approach, and that food security and affordability must have priority over rewilding.

True, the EPP’s about-face might be motivated by electoral considerations. The campaign for next year’s European Parliament election has already begun, and politicians are attentive to which way the wind is blowing. The recent elections in the Netherlands, where a party born out of the farmers’ protest got the most votes (cf. SAS 12/23), as well as the growth of the AfD in Germany, are clear warnings that voters will punish parties associated with the insane EU policy.

Farmers’ associations throughout Europe are on a war footing and are not mincing their words. For example, the head of Italy’s largest farmers union Coldiretti (1.6 million members), Ettore Prandini, accused Frans Timmermans, the First Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Green Deal policies, of being a “thug”.

Speaking at the Lega political education school, Prandini said that “behind the logic of sustainability, Timmermans is demolishing the European production system. Europe is the most sustainable continent globally…. We should be taken as an example, and instead, somebody turns up to tell us that synthetic food is better.”

The protest, however, has also demonstrated once again just how undemocratic European institutions are. The European Parliament is not a full legislative body, and even if it opposes a bill proposed by the Commission, it cannot rewrite it. At most, it can send the text back to the Commission, with the request for a re-write. That is what happened in this case.

The Commission replied that it has no intention of withdrawing the bill. “There is no such thing as rejecting this proposal and hoping the Commission will come with another one. The Commission will not come with another proposal. Let that be crystal clear”, Timmermans told the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee. Characterizing him as a “thug” may be an understatement.

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