This year, the European Union had a real opportunity to support farmers who make space for nature alongside food production. Did they take it?
On 13 March, the European Parliament voted on the agriculture schemes the EU budget will pay for over the next seven years. Before the vote, the deal contained some alarming proposals that, if agreed, would continue to subsidize and encourage harmful farming practices that pollute our soil, water and air at a time when our wildlife continues to decline and many wildlife-friendly farmers struggle to remain in business.
Worse still, it would have paid farmers twice for the same environmental activities and allowed them to still be paid even if they broke other EU laws!
We didn't think our money should be spent that way, and more than 18,000 people in the UK wrote to their MEPs to say so. While over 85,000 people across Europe took part in the campaign, and many MEPs told us that your voices on this influenced how they voted.
Positive decisions taken during the vote
- MEPs rejected the illegal proposal that would have paid some farmers twice for the same measure (so called 'double funding')
- MEPs voted to keep some of the important legally binding conditions for payments to farmers that guarantee basic environmental conditions, animal welfare and human health (cross-compliance)
- MEPs supported the principle of linking part of farmers' 'direct payments' (the money they receive just for being farmers) with a binding package of greening measures.
Despite these wins, the overall outcome of the vote lacks the ambition needed to fix the problems faced by our environment:
- Overall the majority of MEPs voted to keep environmental requirements weak so that farmers can continue to receive the bulk of their payments regardless of how the way they farm affects the environment.
- MEPs failed to support a special programme for High Nature Value and organic farming, or to include provisions for the responsible and sustainable use of water as a prerequisite for receiving payments.
In the next stages of the reform process, the European Parliament, European Commission and EU Member States, including the UK, will negotiate a final agreement, expected by the end of June. After that, individual countries will decide the details around implementing this new policy in their national context.
This means that we still have opportunities to secure a better deal for wildlife and the environment, and to make this a real reform that gets us, and our countryside, real value for our money.
Thank you for adding your voice to ours – you helped make a real difference.
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