Agriculture current issues

In addition to the development of its major campaign to promote the use of more efficient Directly Available Nitrogen (DAN) fertilizers among the farming community throughout Europe, the core of the committee's activities during 2012 have been on the new CAP proposals and the forthcoming fertilizer regulation. Further work on life-cycle analysis of the environmental impact of fertilizers has included the adoption of tools to measure the carbon footprint of fertilizers along the food production chain and monitoring changes in EU biofuels legislation to reflect the effect of indirect land use change.

 

Common Agricultural Policy

The European Commission presented its final CAP 2014-2020 proposals 18 months ago and negotiations with the European Parliament and Council are still in progress. The Commission's intention for the CAP reform was to create a more competitive and sustainable agricultural sector in Europe and provide support for the rural economy.

The revised policy was initially intended to come into force in January 2014. As things currently stand, however, the CAP's second pillar - rural development - might meet this deadline, with the first pillar - farm payments - coming into force one year later.

In a nutshell, there will be significantly less money available to fund CAP 2014-2020 programme than that assigned over the past seven years. The three institutions agree that there should be a progressive transition to a "fairer" allocation of farm payments both within and between members states, with a wider menu of possibilities for targeting payments at specific categories of producers and a "greening" element in the payments to deliver actual environmental benefits.

But it remains to be seen how these concepts are to be translated into effective legislation by the trialogue negotiations, which are scheduled to be finalized by the end of June 2013.

Fertilizers Europe contributed to the initial CAP debate in 2010 with its position paper "CAP after 2013" and the possible impact of the Commission’s proposals on crop production and fertilizer consumption were set out in the "Forecast for Food, Farming and Fertilizer Use in the EU 2012 - 2022", published in June 2012.

The initial reaction to the Commission’s final proposals is that they only partly respond to the challenges facing European agriculture, which needs to remain productive and profitable.

Sustainable intensification of farming in Europe is the way to improve competitiveness, provide income stability for farmers, and increase Europe’s self-reliance in food production, as well as improve its contribution to the global food supply. Furthermore, increased productivity will ensure that no additional land is required for agriculture, safeguarding Europe’s natural areas and the biodiversity.

Fertilizers Europe also actively encourages the promotion of integrated farming practices and fertilization based on selection of appropriate fertilizers according to crop and soil characteristics (right product, right place) and precision application techniques (right rate, right time).

Carbon Calculator

The committee has chosen the Cool Farm Tool (CFT) to work with Fertilizers Europe’s own fertilizer production module to become the industry’s full Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) calculator. The CFT is an internet-based greenhouse gas calculator that helps growers measure the carbon footprint of their crops at farm level.

The CFT is simple to use and based on information that farmers have readily available. It identifies greenhouse gas hotspots and makes it easy for them to test alternative management scenarios and identify those that have a positive impact on their total net emissions. At the same time, the Fertilizers Europe fertilizer production module will be constantly updated and improved.

Biofuels legislation

Although the terms of the European Commission’s first Biofuels Directive in 2003 (2003/30/EC) were not legally binding, it did set indicative targets for biofuel production. In January 2009, the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) introduced the mandatory use of renewable energy in the EU transport sector.

Due to the limited progress achieved under the Biofuels Directive, the targets in the new Directive were made legally binding. It set out sustainability criteria for emissions savings, prohibited the use of raw materials from sensitive areas, and stated that the effects of direct changes in land use should be included
in GHG calculations.

Environmental NGOs challenged the Commission’s biofuel mandate on emissions from Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC), alleging that some biofuels have greater emissions than fossil fuels (due to conversion of forests for food production to compensate for growing biofuel crops on existing farmland).

Having investigated the concern by outsourcing specific studies on ILUC, the Commission came up with a proposal to amend the 2009 legislation, factoring in the ILUC emissions. This proposal can be summarized as follows:

  • Biofuels derived from food crops should not account for more than 5% of the final energy consumed by transport by 2020;
  • †Sustainability criteria based on GHG savings should be at least 60% (35% before ILUC) for biofuels produced in installations starting in July 2012;
  • The European Commission encourages nonland use biofuels (residues from agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry; household waste and algae)
  • The Commission will cut all public subsidies for biofuels produced from crop-based biofuels by 2020.

The European Parliament and Council still have to approve this about-turn in policy before it can come into force.

 

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