German federal states confirm relaxation of green farming rules –

German state agriculture ministers have formally approved a proposal by Federal Minister Cem Özdemir to allow cultivation of productive crops on certain fallow land in light of the war in Ukraine.

According to the decision taken on Tuesday August 16, farmers can continue to grow cereals, sunflowers or certain legumes for a year on land they would otherwise have been forced to take out of production under the common agricultural policy (CAP ) reformed EU. , which will start to be applied by EU Member States from January 2023.

Contrary to Özdemir’s initial position, Germany is thus partially applying the derogation proposed by the European Commission at the end of July, which allows member states to relax certain environmental requirements within the CAP in view of the impact of the war. of Ukraine on world grain markets.

These include the standard known as Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) 8 which, from 2023, requires farmers to leave a certain proportion of agricultural land fallow – 4% in Germany – in order to improve biodiversity.

Özdemir initially criticized the Commission’s proposed easing, which aims to increase domestic cereal production in light of reduced supplies from Ukraine, while accusing the EU executive of avoiding responsibility in the global food crisis.

However, many regional ministers, including the current chairman of the Conference of Agriculture Ministers, Saxony-Anhalt Agriculture Minister Sven Schulze of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), had called for full implement the relaxation authorized by the European executive.

At their last meeting at the end of July, the federal and state governments therefore failed to agree on the issue.

Agreement “late”

Ministers’ Tuesday decision is based on a compromise proposal that Özdemir submitted to the states on August 6, and with which he largely ceded to the regions: while existing fallow land will continue to be protected, farmers will not will not have to remove additional land from production at this time.

“What I’m presenting is a compromise that hurts in one place or another,” Özdemir explained after his proposal was announced.

At the same time, a full implementation of the Commission’s recommendations “one on one” was ultimately “not a consensus between the federal government and the states,” Schulze said in a statement Tuesday regarding the ministers’ decision.

Nonetheless, the Christian Democrat politician hailed the unanimous decision by federal and state ministers, which he said was “long overdue”. In this way, he said, Germany is making “an important contribution to global food security” and giving “a sign of solidarity in times of resource scarcity”.

The German Farmers’ Association had also called Özdemir’s proposal “overdue” after it was published and called for swift approval by all 16 federal states since farmers had already started crop planning for the coming year.

Critics of the decision to cultivate the fallow land, meanwhile, have come from environmental associations.

The environmental NGO NABU, for example, called Özdemir’s decision “proof of the inability of German agricultural policy” in a statement. It is “completely incomprehensible” that fallow land with “low yield potential is giving way to the cultivation of cereals”, explained the president of the organization, Jörg-Andreas Krüger.

Crop rotation: no more wheat crops possible in 2023

In addition to the relaxed rules on fallow land, Germany’s federal states have also agreed to the less contested proposal to suspend crop rotation requirements for a period of one year, in a bid to increase domestic wheat production.

Under new CAP rules, European farmers cannot grow the same crop two years in a row if they want to access the funds available under the conditions set out in the new green architecture of the EU farm subsidy programme.

For example, if a field was planted with winter wheat one year, corn, rapeseed or similar crops should be grown instead the following year.

The suspension of the rule for 2023 is now planned to allow farmers to sow the high-demand crop again next year, even on fields that have already been used for wheat this year.

In May, Özdemir himself asked the Commission to allow EU member states to suspend crop rotation rules and therefore included it in his German implementation proposal.

[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna/Nathalie Weatherald]

James R. Rhodes