Farmer NGOs criticize Latvia’s green agricultural policy plans / Article
The total European Union investment for direct payments to Latvian farmers and rural development over the period 2021-2027 is around 3.4 billion euros. Although direct payments have increased by up to 44%, Latvian farmers will only see their funding increase by 11% due to the low level of state co-financing and the reduction in funds allocated to rural development.
Requirements and results
The Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rigonda Krieviņa, said that according to the parameters of the European Union, agricultural aid in member states should be oriented towards environmental, economic and social objectives. Therefore, the last two years have produced a national strategic plan for the common agricultural policy.
“For measures of economic objectives, we have earmarked 42% of our total money, for environmental measures, they are 48% and for social purposes, which include education, science and innovation, we have planned 8.8% of funding. We have developed 66 measures in our strategic plan, together with the farmers’ association, ”Krieviņa said.
The strategy also provides for increased support for agricultural practices that contribute to the mitigation of climate change, the improvement of the environment and the preservation of biodiversity. 438 million euros are devoted to voluntary activities called eco-programs.
“When claiming additional payments, the farmer needs to know whether he will keep the water, soil, air clean or reduce CO2 emissions with his activities. [..] It will also benefit from very strict monitoring and the European Commission will monitor financial use. If these goals are not met, funding adjustments will also be made, ”Krieviņa said.
Association: The environmental benefits are insignificant
Gustava Norkārklis, head of the Latvian organic farming association, said supporting ecosystems, as planned to achieve Europe’s “green” goals, is more focused on strengthening large conventional farms than on development. from organic farming.
“It will benefit the environment very little, but a lot of money will be spent. I criticized these eco-programs. For example, one of the aid measures is that a farmer just has to perform soil tests and report on the fertilizer plans once every 5 years, and he will receive an aid payment for those years. . But this is just normal agricultural practice. I’m not sure what the significant improvements and benefits are for the environment and biodiversity. And there is significant funding – over 100 million, ”Norkārklis pointed out.
The European Commission “From farm to fork” The strategy aims to increase the share of organic farmland in the EU to 25% by 2030, while reducing the use of pesticides by 50%. Norkārklis estimated that funding for farmers to practice organic would remain at almost the same level, unlike the increase made by the ministry.
“The financing of organic farming is now divided into several components. In the past, there was only one payment for organic farming – a clear envelope and a budget. From now on, its money is divided between eco-programs and rural development. And it can be said that there is now another payment available for organic farmers, but it is the same old green payment. By replacing the title of an aid measure, it is not entirely correct to say that more funding has been given to organic farmers. We will encourage the European Commission to assess the strategic plan of our Common Agricultural Policy and indicate where we see concerns about it, ”said Norkārklis.
Inequalities between sectors
On the other hand, Farmers Saeima foreign policy specialist Valters Zelès said the organization representing mostly conventional farmers also sees many gaps in the national strategy, such as unequal aid payments across sectors. and production methods.
“The ministry has created a payment calculator where owners can enter their farm data individually and see how much aid will increase or decrease compared to the previous period. [..] Around 20% of farms will remain at the current support level and 20% could benefit from a 10-20% increase in support payments. But 50-60% of homeowners will experience a reduction of around 20% in the aid payment [continuing to operate as it has been].
“And the ministry also emphasizes that we cannot do things the way we have done so far. We must do more. But the most important problem is that the ministry did not predict that, for example, in agricultural production, all farmers could do more. Even if we wanted all farms to become so ‘green’ tomorrow and put all these eco-program practices in place, there would only be enough money for 25% of the farmers, ”Zelès said.
In the opinion of the “Farmers Saeima”, farmers in the organic sector will have an increase in payments, but the national plan for the common agricultural policy lacks targets to achieve.
“For example, there is a huge increase in payments in the biosector – over 100 million. But we don’t see how we can increase productivity or combat the fact that, for example, organic milk is produced, but transmitted like conventional milk. In particular, it appears that the consumer pays the farmer, through taxes, to produce the organic dairy, which results in mixing in one tank with conventional milk. Therefore, we do not see any strategy or logic in the way these payments are distributed. We don’t see an impact assessment done in Latvia for this whole strategic plan, ”Zelès said.
Focus on planning and reporting
Andrejs Briedis, director of the Latvian Nature Fund, believes that ecosystems developed by the ministry should have basic requirements to be able to apply for help, rather than providing them as innovative environmentally friendly solutions.
“At this point, we don’t have national targets, because what we can find out by reading the strategic plan is how much money and on what hectares we are going to spend. You can’t say that its eco-programs are all bad, but most of the time farmers don’t have to change anything or very little. In fact, the focus is on better planning and better accountability across the country for what farmers do.
But if we come back to the objectives of the Parcours Vert: to reduce the use of minerals and pesticides, then ecosystems do not foresee anything like this. So what strategy are we talking about here? Unfortunately, we have to conclude that the national strategy is to take all the money as much as possible, ”said Briedis.
The Environmental Advisory Council also analyzed the national strategy of the common agricultural policy and also concluded that the aid does not focus on more environmentally friendly agriculture. Council President Juris Jātnieks stressed that Latvia’s strategic plan does not increase funding or compensation for forest owners whose territories are located in specially protected natural areas.
Following the parameters of the new common agricultural policy strategy, support should be granted from 2023. The Ministry of Agriculture is currently developing proposals for public consultations and will submit the national plan to the European Commission for evaluation by now. the end of the year. Until the start of the new period in 2023, agriculture will benefit from transitional support conditions.