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Food security or protection of species?: Ampel argues about fallow land

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Cultivation of grain instead of organic fallow land – this is how the turnaround experienced by agriculture in Germany this year can be summed up. Because of the war in Ukraine and the grain shortage, Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) exceptionally allowed grain cultivation for 2023 on areas that should actually be set aside according to an EU regulation. But now the Liberals are demanding that the exception become a permanent rule. Greens and SPD see it completely differently.

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“As long as Putin’s war of aggression continues, there will be no grain deliveries from Ukraine,” said FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr to the Tagesspiegel. In view of the tense situation on the agricultural markets, Europe’s production capacity must be increased quickly and sustainably in order to depress prices on the market. “It was therefore the right decision to suspend the planned set-aside for 2023 – we should now implement this indefinitely,” Dürr continued.

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According to the FDP parliamentary group leader, general set-asides of agricultural land are the wrong way to achieve sustainability in agriculture. With innovations such as new breeding methods or digital technologies on the field, this can be done more precisely. “We also owe it to the farmers to quickly ensure planning security on this issue,” he said.

Özdemir wants to keep the restriction to 2023

Özdemir has stated that the permission to grow cereals on the set-aside areas, which are intended to serve biodiversity, should apply “expressly only for 2023”. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture added that “the standards for maintaining land in good agricultural and environmental condition” will apply again in the future. As a reward for this service, farmers then receive their annual agricultural subsidy.

But the liberals don’t want to put up with that. The agricultural spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Gero Hocker, sees the rising prices for food as an argument to give priority to securing the food supply – and to put the ecological rules, with which, for example, the diversity of field bird species are to be preserved, on the back burner. “Therefore, the EU is well advised to allow the member states to make an early exception to the mandatory set-aside for the coming year. Farmers now need planning security,” he says.

FDP politicians like Dürr and Hocker can refer to the German Farmers’ Association. Its Secretary General Bernhard Krüsken is of the opinion that the EU “must place a greater focus on efficient domestic agriculture” “particularly in times of increasing geopolitical uncertainties”. Krüsken demanded that the preservation of biodiversity had to be solved more intelligently “than with blanket specifications for blunt set-aside”.

In times of increasing geopolitical uncertainties, the EU must focus more on efficient domestic agriculture.

Bernhard KruskenGeneral Secretary of the German Farmers’ Union

However, the EU wants to stick to its target that from 2024 four percent of agricultural land must finally be set aside. The Brussels Commission emphasizes that the exemption granted last summer by the responsible Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, only applies to the current year.

At the time, the Brussels authorities made it possible for 1.5 million hectares to be cultivated across the EU – instead of lying fallow. At first, Özdemir was reluctant to make use of it, but finally gave in under pressure from the federal states.

Future of set-aside still open

What will become of the FDP initiative for the coming year is currently still open. A possible further escalation in the Ukraine war could also lead to a shortage of global grain supplies. Nevertheless, the SPD and the Greens are already hammering in a few pegs – from their point of view, the organic areas must finally come in 2024.

The Green MP Karl Baer said that the Liberals, with the help of Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP), should rather ensure that the “waste” of “good arable land” for the production of biofuels ends. And the agricultural spokeswoman for the SPD parliamentary group, Susanne Mittag, stated: “The permanent management of the fallow land is not economically relevant and ecologically unacceptable.” fertilizer and crop protection can take place”.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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