3 mins

CAP reform and a Green Deal: an unmissable opportunity to promote agroecological practices

Guillaume Cros

The Occitanie region is largely made up of rural and mountainous areas. Indeed, almost 58 % of the population live in municipalities with fewer  than 10.000 inhabitants. Among the many challenges identified, a better territorial balance is a central concern for the regional authorities, a spatial planning is one of the major powers of the French regions. The Occitanie Region is developing a policy of proximity, promoting in particular the ?little towns?, which are essential for the economic and demographic development of these rural areas, while ensuring that they are preserved.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis in our territories have motivated the Occitanie region to implement a regional version of the European Green Deal."

The region also invests, alongside the EU, in supporting agri-rural areas by: 

supporting small farmers in our territories in order to keep rural areas alive;

controlling land and its price to facilitate the establishment of young farmers;

  helping farmers in areas with natural handicaps.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis in our territories have motivated the Occitanieregion to implement a regional version of the European Green Deal. Adopted in 2020, this regional transformation plan aims to build a new, more resilient model, in line with the EU?s Green Deal.

The food component is a key element of this regional green deal. With the support of EU funds (in the context of both the recovery plans and the next programming of the European Structural and Investment Funds), the Occitanie region intends to promote generational renewal for farmers, to reduce the use of pesticides and to strengthen the production of local plant proteins to achieve protein self-sufficiency by 2040.

It also wishes to support organic production and strengthen short supply chains(by developing logistics for regional agrifood businesses). Finally, the Occitanie Region wishes to enable all inhabitants of its region to have a healthy diet by combating food insecurity.

To provide against emergencies caused by climate change, more needs to be done. Therefore I made a commitment in 2018 to promote the transition to agroecology at European level.

I'm proud that my proposal to include quantified environmental targets in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans Regulation was taken on board by the European EU local and regional authorities. In its opinion on CAP reform adopted in 2018, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) proposed five quantified environmental targets to be achieved by 2027 by each Member State, namely: 

30 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in the Member State; 

doubling of the land area used for organic farming in the Member State, compared with 2017, or at least 30 % of the agricultural area; 

minimum 30 % reduction in the use of pesticides in the Member State, compared with 2017; 

gradual and planned end to cage rearing throughout the EU; 

guarantee that 100 % of surface water and groundwater will comply with the Nitrates Directive, without exemptions, in the Member State.

'm pleased to note that these targets were also taken on board by the European Commission in the Farm to Fork strategy, but I fear that these goals will not be achieved without a deeper CAP reform.

To go further, I proposed to draft an own-initiative opinion on agroecology, which was adopted by the CoR in February 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the necessity for 'resilient , sovereign food systems.'

CoR members voted for several operational proposals, which traverse CAP reform, EU legislation, and local and regional policies. They include: a new directive onagricultural soils  to halt the decrease in organic matter content, stop erosion and prioritise soil life in agricultural practices, to be proposed by the European Commission; 

further promotion of the development of short supply chains and small-scale processingof agricultural products;

 the expansion of protected agricultural areas, creation of agroecological demonstration farms, and tools for monitoring the implementation of the agroecological transition; 

EU legislation to ban genet ically m odified or m ut agenic seeds and to stop importing agricultural products that do not comply with EU social and environmental production standards; 

safeguarding animal welfare and mitigating climate change by changing the current scale of livestock farming to the human scale, ensuring as much free range as possible and self-sufficiency in feeding animals; 

reducing VAT on organic, local and seasonal products along with local meal vouchers and the introduction of a significant percentage of such products in public catering.

I hope that these requests will be heard by the EU institutions before it is too late.

Guillaume Cros,is Vice President of the Regional Council of Occitanie and rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions on CAP reform and agroecology

This article appears in Rural areas: an eye to the future

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