CAP reform: enemy of the European Green Deal

The new CAP favours huge agro-industrial interests, and so continues to subsidise intensive factory farming, responsible, according to Greenpeace studies, for 17% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU

Talk comes cheap for some: a case in point is statements about how we must protect farmers in Malta.

However, when dealing with the big picture in the European Parliament, for example, Roberta Metsola and the notoriously pro-big business EPP, support an anti-environment, anti-green and anti-small farmer EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Labour, on the one hand spouts platitudes about wellbeing and the green economy, while on the other hand Ian Borg literally bulldozes through farmers’ fields.

The new CAP comes into force in 2023. There is no doubt that the ‘old’ CAP needed reform, but the problem is that the ‘new’ CAP goes directly contrary to the lofty ideals expressed in the European Commission’s Green Deal.

The painful truth is that the new CAP will not tackle concretely the issues faced by small farmers, and the wellbeing of the planet, which in turn affects the wellbeing of us all. The new CAP favours huge agro-industrial interests, and so continues to subsidise intensive factory farming, responsible, according to Greenpeace studies, for 17% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.

What was needed is an ambitious programme of ecological modernization of the industrial farming sector. Maybe what comes to mind in Malta is the small family farm, or SME, and farmers, trying to make the best out of their small holding. Make no mistake, the CAP does next to nothing to help these farmers, to promote sustainable practices and to encourage young farmers. The EU’s CAP is a subsidy scheme for huge farming corporations. The Liberals, Conservative ‘Christian Democrats’, and Socialists voted to keep it that way.

A mere 30% of the CAP budget will go towards incentivizing green agricultural practices. There is no money in the CAP to help farmers protect biodiversity, despite the rhetoric of the farmer as a guardian of nature. It also remains unclear and vague, probably on purpose, as to how member states can spend their CAP money when in the current climate crisis it would have been wise to establish clear ecological modernization targets. On the other hand, going by today’s spending patterns, a third of all CAP spending goes to barely 1% of European farms. 20% of the EU budget goes to prop up intensive agriculture and towards the production of animal fodder, that is to prop up big business. The small farmer is all but forgotten.

Malta should be at the forefront in defending small farmers. It is in our interest to de-industrialise farming. It is in our interest that the CAP is remodelled to help small farmers protect their land, engage in sustainable practices and give them the right and necessary targeted help to produce fresh food for local consumption. It is also in our interest to make sure that young farmers are guaranteed an income, as farmers providing zero-miles food but also as guardians of nature, such that they are able and willing to take up farming as a career.

A long-term plan for sustainable production of fresh food is sorely needed. The very least that government can do is ensure that this sector is funded properly, subject to certain conditions: sustainability, the protection of land and the conservation of nature.

It is only the Greens in the European Parliament who as a united group are squarely defending the interests of Maltese farmers. The others prefer to pander to big business.

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