Opening speech from Janez Potočnik
Regional meeting Sweden

On Thursday, December 1, 2022 the Forum moved to Sweden for our regional event. The Forum Chairman Janez Potočnik welcomed delegates to the conference and below you can read his full speech.

Janez Potocnik speaking in Sweden

Dear friends, welcome to another edition of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture. I am delighted to be talking to you in Sweden present in person.

As you know, the Forum has this constant ambition to bring all of us together, policy makers, farmers, NGOs, industries, and academics to see if we can find ways to break down our silos and transform our food system, together.

My address might sound to some not very food system and agriculture related, but believe me, it is. One of the main problems leading to the absence of taking into account trade-offs, synergies, and potential multiple benefits, is exactly based on the narrow optic and silo approach we tend to apply in our thinking and policy making.

In the past months, Covid-19, now war in Ukraine and a summer packed with extreme weather events have shaken the world’s commodity chains. Shortages, and fears of shortages, are stretching European economies. Such system shocks echo deeply. Most developed economies, and the Euro area, are experiencing inflation at historical levels. All the governing bodies are focusing on providing stability, on addressing the energy, food, materials crisis and improving security provision, trying to improve strategic autonomy of Europe. We must admit, they do not have an easy task.

Despite all these acute challenges we are facing, now would be the worse time to call off the Green Deal, an ambitious and necessary strategic policy framework, addressing the chronical challenges we face … and it would also not be a good time to question the good intentions and the vision included in the Farm to Fork document. Taking painkillers to remove the acute pains will not heal chronical diseases, rather hide them, and make them worse.

The COVID crisis and the war in Ukraine have clearly accelerated the need to transition our food system to one that is robust, sustainable, that restores and preserves biodiversity, reduces emissions, sequesters carbon, and provides affordable, nutritious food for us all.

We cannot overstate the role natural resources play. Natural resources provide the foundation for the goods, services and infrastructure that make up our current socio-economic systems. Access to, use and benefits from natural resources have been in human history always closely related to the level of the achieved wellbeing, but also to stability, security, conflicts, wars … Just think about land, water, oil and gas, minerals, precious metals, and I could continue. We can see that also as a consequence of the terrible war in Ukraine.

But we know from the International Resource Panel’s work that extraction and processing of materials also drives all aspects of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

It is responsible for 50% of global climate change. It also causes over 90% of global land-related biodiversity loss, and water stress – more than 80% related to biomass and economic sectors extracting and processing biomass like agriculture, forestry, and ocean activities. Natural resource industries are also behind one third of global pollution. Trends are alarming: material use, everything extracted from the earth, has tripled since 1970, and without transformative change – it will double again by 2060. Current use of natural resources is linked to deep inequalities – high-income countries, where we are lucky enough to live, consume a big share of the benefits, while low-income economies are burdened with negative impacts of extraction and processing. In overusing Earth’s resources, and by distributing the benefits unfairly, our economic model is taking far more than the planet can sustainably give.

And what about Europe. We are, despite all sustainability related efforts, still clearly overshooting planetary boundaries and living out of the safe operating space. For years it is also known that European economy is very import dependent and fragile when it comes to energy and materials – everything so important for our economic success and wellbeing.

According to Eurostat EU dependency on energy imports did not substantially change over the last decade. During that period, the EU’s net imports of energy have been greater than its primary production; in other words, more than half of the EU’s gross available energy was supplied by net imports and the dependency rate exceeded 50.0 %. Russia being the major provider.

But also, for most of the critical materials Europe is import dependent – I remember analyses from my days in EC, that for 54 scarce and economically important raw materials, Europe in its entirety depends 90% on raw materials imported from outside Europe. More recent data are showing that of the 30 raw materials that the EU classifies as critical, 19 are predominantly imported from China.
Prices of resources in the long term are increasing, in a short term they are volatile and share of the material costs in total costs of manufacturing industry has in recent decades increased.

In short, resource use and management are not only critical from the environmental impacts point of view, but also important for our competitiveness, also the competitiveness of the food industry and farming.

We learned also that success of energy transition depends on securing the access of increased material needs. Commission President von der Leyen was clear in the State of the Union Address: “There are some hard facts: without secure and sustainable access to the necessary raw materials, our ambition to become the first climate neutral continent is at risk.” While EU Commission is preparing its renewed regulatory view on critical raw materials it would be important to avoid replacing one dependency with another. Our effort should not be only focused on securing access to critical raw materials, but it should be in the first place about managing all materials and all natural resources, more responsibly. This includes biomass, metals, non-metallic materials, fossil fuels – everything extracted from the earth, as well as land, and water. This is the only way to meet impact targets set in climate, biodiversity and pollution and avoid all potentially related problems.

When analysing what would need to be done to make EGD implementable in a global environment Systemiq, Club of Rome, and OSF in International System Change Compass identified three major blind-spots, very much present also in the corporate sector and even in the civil society.

First, lack of holistic system change approach. Leaders lack capacity or knowledge of how to translate system change visions into their concrete policies/investment structures which ends in conflicting actions, policy logics that hinder real transformation. In the case of climate change, the prevailing focus on reducing the carbon emissions and disregarding questions like resource and biodiversity implications, overconsumption, inequality, air pollution, water crisis, … is potentially leading to trade-offs and future lock-ins, instead to synergies and multiple-benefits.

Second, lack of going to the roots of the problem – addressing the drivers and pressures. We lack focus on natural resource use as well as market signals leading consumers and producers’ behaviour. Our current system does not incentivize sustainable resource use, in fact quite the opposite. The signals we receive tell us that it makes most economic sense to destroy nature – trees are only worth something when they become timber. This is incredibly difficult to reverse since we have become so used to not valuing nature. We desperately need to shift economic signals to producers and consumers, otherwise, while we call citizens to act responsibly, we are asking them to behave irrationally, against all the economic behavioural theory.

And third, lack of demand side focus. Policy attention, also in climate efforts, is mainly given to the supply side of the economy, to the cleaning of the existing economic system. It is lacking the attention to the demand, consumption side. For example, it would be in vain to decarbonize the production of steel, as important as it is, if it is used to produce under-utilised cars and houses, which contribute only to traffic and property market bubbles, not to real social prosperity.

All this is unfortunately more or less set aside in good times, since it is either difficult to comprehends or it is simply against existing interests and misleading contemporary economic trends.

Climate COP has just finished. If sharing loss and damage is a major success, then we know that from the real goal perspective – limiting future warming – COP was a failure. One could only hope that with the recognition of responsibility and willingness to share the burden we have created conditions to focus on real drivers – current economic system. The only way to unpack climate efforts and make them effective, is to stop ignoring the inherent wastefulness of production and consumption systems, in particular in high-income countries, and integrate commitments limiting material and consumption footprints in NDC’s.

Standards and behaviour patterns linked to the current economic model were set by high-income countries, including Europe. Also, the benefits of natural resource over exploitation have mainly landed in our countries. We are thus ethically bound to show we are willing and able to change a reality we have created, and to lead the essential transition – at home and globally. While the responsibility for the past is clear, responsibility for future is of course shared … but only by leading that transition, only by looking first in the mirror, we would give nobody an excuse to repeat some of the mistakes done in the past and avoid collective failure.

I applaud the phenomenal amount of work that is being directed towards innovation to reduce the impact of our current system, but without full scale systems change, these innovations will not even touch the sides of what is needed to meet our climate and biodiversity targets.

The problem is that humankind has never separated out economic growth from ever-rising demand for resources. As a result, we are now overstepping planetary boundaries, and locking ourselves out of the safe operating space in which human societies evolved.

Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who governs the country of Dubai, reportedly said, “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, and my grandson is going to drive a Land Rover, but my great-grandson is going to ride a camel.” When asked why, he responded, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times. Good times create weak men, weak men create hard times.”

Bad times and all the challenges we are currently facing should be a clear and convincing lesson we should finally understand. The best and only way to avoid or at least minimize any potential future crises, be it related to security, environmental sustainability, social fairness and equity, or economic success, is to systematically strengthen collective resilience. Not only in bad times, but also, and in the first place, in good times.

Farmers, producing the food in more ecologically responsible way and protecting their most precious resource, fertile soil, are best prepared for the harsh weather events. During the summer like it was this year, when the floods and droughts were almost more frequent than normal days, they were rewarded. While output of farmers was affected by many, it was less affected by those keeping their soil healthy and resilient. And they were also less in a need of otherwise well justified public support … which should be an important message also for policy makers where to strategically channel their public funds.

Resilience can only be achieved through collaboration and holistic approach. We need to move from an economy exploiting humans to an economy serving humans. We need to move from an economy considering humans as external and superior to Nature, to an economy acknowledging that we are embedded with Nature.

In the next Global Resource Outlook 2024, IRP will follow the wellbeing logic and redefine sectors as systems. Instead of optimising economic output, we will focus on systems that provide a societal function, human needs (like nutrition, mobility, shelter, essential consumer goods, and their supporting systems such as water and energy). This will allow cross-sector innovation and shifts to a more future-fit business models.

Changing our relationship with natural resources – with nature – is ultimately an economic, security and resilience imperative. This relationship is not stable, nor balanced, and it will be resolved with either collective wisdom and effort, or in a hard and painful way … The best way to minimize potential future crises, be it related to security, to environmental sustainability, to social fairness and equity questions, to health-related challenges, or to economic success, and also to deliver the EGD vision, is to systematically strengthen our collective resilience. In good times and in bad times.

Dear friends, finally, in the spirit of working together, I would like to take a moment to thank the wide variety of partners who come together to support the Forum and join the conversation on these crucial topics: the founding partners: The European Landowners’ Organization (celebrating this month its 50th anniversary) and Syngenta; our strategic partners: The Nature Conservancy, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Cargill, WWF and Thought for Food; Our international partner: The Chicago Council of Global Affairs, our supporting partners: The Friends of the Countryside, John Deere, Pepsico, Nestle, Indigo, The Rewe group, SYSTEMIQ and the RISE Foundation, and now also our first tech partner – Microsoft. Also the Czech Presidency for their auspices attributed to our event- you will hear more from Ladislav Miko -being now in Canada for the COP15. And of course, I would like to thank the Forum’s team for bringing us together today. If anyone, it is me being aware of the amount of their invested work … with smile and without a single complaint.

I wish you a fruitful conference and since today we entered the month of December, let me be the first wishing you a healthy and happy 2023 and to see you in person in March in our main event in Brussels.

Thank you for your attention.

Full videos from the whole event will be available in the coming week on the Forum website.

Sweden conference

In discussion with Shari Rogge-Fidler
Podcast summary

How can agriculture provide solutions to tackle climate change and how is the Farm Foundation supporting growers?


In this episode we discuss with Shari Rogge-Fidler, President and CEO of the Farm Foundation, based in Chicago, USA, how she thinks agriculture could provide solutions to tackle climate change. As a farm owner and operator herself, she explains her thoughts on the position of farmers on this matter, and the role they are aiming to achieve, also at a political level. She also explains why the Farm Foundation recently joined with the Forum, AFI and CAPI, to launch the Global Forum for Farm Policy and Innovation (GFFPI). For a taster, read our short summary below, or dive into the full 22-minute Food Systems Podcast for much more.


What is the Farm Foundation’s role?

The Farm Foundation was established in the 1930s as what we believe was the first U.S. ag institute, especially focusing on policy. We position ourselves as a think tank, do tank, trying to accelerate practical solutions. Our levers are policy, innovation and education. We prioritise four thematic areas: farmer health, digital ag, markets including trade, and sustainability.

The Farm Foundation is a non-partisan, non-lobbying, big tent organisation with farmers and ranchers of all shapes and sizes across the US.

Can agriculture play a role as a climate solution? How compatible is that with farmers’ primary role as a food producer?

Agriculture can absolutely play a big role in both climate mitigation and adaptation. There are many places where this is already underway, just not at scale yet. The regenerative ag movement really supports climate solutions and is especially strong with investors across the sector and food companies.

There’s a big gap between what’s going on at the corporate and investor level and at the farm. The farmer’s primary role is providing food, feed, fuel and fibre. This is not necessarily top of mind for most farmers and ranchers, but is a co-benefit, not a competing goal.

What is the extent of interest among farmers and ranchers in playing that dual role? What motivates them?

Whereas in the past, maybe farmers and ranchers did not accept or believe in climate change, the stats now show that about 80% do. Where the differences might be, is over causes, solutions and the role government and the private sector should play.

We are seeing some really strong market signals from before the Biden administration to affect change for climate solutions with farmers. With the Biden administration, the government role has started to shift.

How is the Farm Foundation supporting growers perhaps thinking about jumping into this space?

There are so many opportunities from the market and the government. We cannot advocate a certain solution or option, but we have issue reports and forums to lay out the information for farmers and related organisations to try to have a one stop shop.

We are launching an innovation education farm to help all stakeholders better understand some of the key farm level issues and how they relate to the market and policy.

How might the midterm elections impact the direction the Biden administration has taken?

The Biden administration has certainly made some bold plans and commitments for climate solutions. I think there will be headwinds but the current commitments will likely still move forward, but just no additional ones. As for the farm bill, we thought there was a possibility of seeing a revolutionary bill. I think those chances are probably reduced now after the midterms.

You will participate in the US-EU collaboration platform on agriculture in Brussels in December. What are your expectations?

With the Farm Foundation, our mission is to build trust and understanding at the intersection of agriculture and society. That’s the language being used for this gathering in Brussels. My hunch is why some of the differences exist might be around the different structures, size and scale of agriculture in Europe and the US, and perhaps a different view on the role of government and the private sector.

We are advancing a few projects with the EU and the USDA during 2023. I’m hoping to find more opportunities to do so while I’m there.

We’ve worked with you to launch the Global Forum for Farm Policy and Innovation. What motivated you and what are your hopes?

It was an opportunity and a challenge. We have an informal relationship with the Canadian Agrifood Policy Institute. Having had a good experience, I saw this as an opportunity to expand. Too much of the ag sector is focused domestically. For good reason.

But the food and ag sector is global. I thought it was a challenge to expand to a global health focus and look for other similar organisations. We started gathering informally over the last year. For 2023, our focus is on trade and sustainability.

If you have found this short summary interesting, there’s lots more to hear in the full 22-minute conversation. It is available now on iTunes, Podbean or Spotify or on this website.


About Shari Rogge-Fidler

Shari Rogge-Fidler is President and CEO of the Farm Foundation, based in Chicago, USA. Shari is a fifth-generation farm owner from Nebraska, who began her career in London in financial services and then with the Boston Consulting Group. She and her family launched and grew a branded gourmet organic food company, where she was vice president of sales and marketing. She was president of Cambium Strategies, LLC, a company focused on helping food and agriculture organizations navigate secondary growth. She was also Interim CEO at Applied GeoSolutions, LLC, focusing on commercializing its geospatial decision tools for agriculture and soil health purposes. Most recently, Shari was CEO of Family Farms, LLC, serving approximately 1,000 farms across the U.S. and Canada. Shari received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Kansas, with an emphasis on international finance.


In discussion with Tassos Haniotis
Podcast summary

Is it a false dilemma that people have to choose between either food security or climate action?


In this first episode of our new series we talk with Tassos Haniotis, former AGRI Director and former AMIS Chair, about Ukraine and the extent to which that conflict has brought into focus some of the uncertainties that have impacted on agricultural markets since the late 2010s and the false dilemmas that Tassos has talked about in relation to the sustainability of agriculture. Is it a false dilemma that people have to choose between either food security or climate action? For a taster, read our short summary below, or dive into the full 23-minute Food Systems Podcast for much more.


What do you see those uncertainties are and what do you think the impact has been?

Since summer 2021, there have been upward pressures on prices for energy, metals, minerals and to some extent agriculture for three interrelated reasons. There is huge uncertainty about where in the short and medium-term agricultural markets are going to stabilise. The second reason has to do with the energy link of the war in Ukraine. Thirdly, the war makes people rethink types of friendships, alliances and international relations. This has an impact on the debates and policy choices we have to make on climate action and food security.

Are tensions between food security and climate action becoming greater or is it a false dilemma?

Tensions exist and we need to recognise them. The dilemma is created when we believe that it is either or. We have to see how and where we can bring together action for climate change and action for food security.

Food security is about food availability and food affordability. It’s about the stomach and the pocket. The way to actually produce more means that this has to be done in a manner that is more sustainable today. There are practices throughout the food spectrum that demonstrate we can increase economic and environmental efficiency at the same time. We have failed to link these experiences and to communicate better.

Where are we failing?

Sometimes nowadays, we start with policy options without really looking at the underlying evidence. Our starting point has not been to identify the problem and the potential options, weigh the pros and cons and try to find a combination of economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability. This is going to be very different within and between member states. We started with general ideas we considered applicable everywhere in the same way. That has distorted the debate for quite some time.

You have argued that environmental problems are a failure of both public policies and private markets. Can you elaborate?

Markets provide extremely important signals we should not ignore. But they are not perfect. One of their biggest failures over the years is in accurately reflecting the environmental footprint of our practices, not just in agriculture. We need to address this failure and look at what our policies have, and have not, done so far and not minimise the progress made.

We should be very clear about what the private and the public sector can do with synergies. We need both and need to combine both.

The challenges of food and environmental security and climate action are global. Are local solutions necessary and can they be sufficient?

We need to focus more on local solutions because part of what they do is reintroduce an element of diversity that we are about to lose. My starting point is that both climate change and food security are global problems. We need to see the big picture when we try to apply local solutions.

Food security is a global issue. If you have a very significant deficit in some parts of the world, you are going to feel it in all parts of the world through price mechanisms and trade flows.

What is your biggest concern in achieving a more resilient and sustainable food and agriculture system? And biggest cause for optimism?

Clearly the biggest concern I have is that we have war on European soil. All the fundamental elements and aspects we took for granted in the post war situation, including respect for frontiers and international rules, have been very severely challenged. That is going to have certain costs in the short and medium term. We will have to bear these if we really want to make sure the world tomorrow, after this situation, is safer.

On the positive side, in a crisis you see not only the ugly, but the positive, face of human behaviour. It also brings to the forefront the need to address climate and food security in a manner that is potentially complementary.

If you have found this short summary interesting, there’s lots more to hear in the full 23-minute conversation. It is available now on iTunes, Podbean or Spotify or on this website.


About Tassos Haniotis

Tassos Haniotis recently retired, after a 33-year career in the Commission, as the Director of Strategy, Simplification and Policy Analysis in the Directorate General for Agriculture of the European Commission. He previously held posts as Head of Unit in the Agricultural Policy Analysis and Perspectives unit and the Agricultural Trade Policy Analysis unit in the same Directorate General, as Member and subsequently Deputy Head of the Cabinet of former European Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischler (with respective responsibilities the preparation of the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, and the agricultural chapter of the Doha WTO Round and the EU-Mercosur negotiations), and as the Agricultural Counsellor of the European Commission’s Delegation in the United States.


Sweden a land of trees that also produces 80% of its domestic food and beverages
Home for our next Regional event

On Thursday, December 1, 2022 the Forum moves to Sweden for our next regional event. Here we take a look at the agriculture in a country that is also known for its forestry.

Sweden is one of the smaller national food markets in the European Community (EC), with a population of just 8.9 million. About 80% of the nation’s supply of food and beverage is produced domestically, with imports making up the remaining 20%. The import proportion is far higher—more than 70%—for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Sweden agriculture

In contrast to the significantly bigger forestry area, Sweden’s arable land only makes up 2,800,000 ha, or roughly 7% of the country’s total land area. The temperate environment is good for agriculture because it allows for the growth of high-quality fruits, vegetables, and berries. Cold winters prevent the infestation of many crop pests, and mild summers with long days of sunlight. The fact that farmland in Scania in the south has a growing season up to 100 days longer than farmland in the far north, even though agricultural circumstances vary greatly between locations, demonstrates this. Cereals, primarily barley, oats, and wheat, as well as grasslands, make up the majority of the crops grown in Sweden. Cereals are planted on approximately 40% of arable land.

The Swedish government has actively promoted organic farming since the early 1990s, which has led to a steady increase in the amount of land used for organic farming. In recent years, numerous significant market participants from the retail, wholesale, and industrial sectors have vowed to support a wide array of organic food items.

Sweden agriculture

Notably the woodlands make up a large portion of Sweden. For the country’s economy, forestry is crucial, and most Swedes link closely to forests and forestry activities. Just 1% of the world’s commercial space is held by Sweden. Nevertheless, it contributes 10% of the sawn timber, pulp, and paper traded on the international market. Additionally crucial to reducing climate change are forests and forestry. A substantial amount of biomass may be transferred from Swedish woods due to their high rates of productivity and low rates of natural disturbances, which allows for the avoidance of emissions from fossil fuels and other emission-intensive products like steel and concrete. Men and women can both find employment through it, particularly in rural areas.


Moreover, an interesting historical fact would be that many forests were significantly over-utilized in the 18th and 19th centuries for farming, housing construction, fuel wood, charcoal for the iron industry, and later as a supply of logs for timber and pulping. Forest recovery was hampered by cattle grazing there. It is notable to highlight that the first Forestry Act, which mandated owners to replant after harvesting, was approved in 1903 following years of political debate about the deteriorating condition of Swedish woods. Since then, the Forestry Act has undergone numerous revisions, and it now strikes a balance between social, ecological, and commercial concerns. After that, it was necessary to plant a new tree for every one that was cut down. Additionally, the legislation set a restriction on how much timber may be cut down.


For more information you can check out the following websites:

Watch out for further details on our next Regional event and join us on Thursday, December 1 in Stockholm.

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A system-based approach for the long term
Czech Regional Event opening session summary

On Wednesday, May 18, the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague hosted the latest edition of the ForumforAg Regional conference. More than 200 participants joined us in the auditorium for a truly international event marking the crossover from the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union to the upcoming Czech Presidency in July. Throughout the day, sessions discussed biodiversity, environmental targets, climate mitigation, food system transformation and forestry.

Czech intro session

Delegates were welcomed by Professor Josef Soukup, CSc, Dean of the faculty, Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources, at the university. Introducing the university and its faculties in the areas of agriculture, life sciences, and the economy, he said fields of study that relate to the development of agriculture attract many students.

Joining him, Constantin Kinský, Vice President and Member of the Board of the Private Forests Chamber in the Czech Republic (SVOL) and European delegate, European Landowners’ Organization (ELO), welcomed the ForumforAg debates as a way to provide continuity. He introduced the ELO and outlined its definition of sustainability, which relates to three areas: ecological sustainability, economic response to sustainability, and socio-political sustainability.

Mr Kinský handed over to Janez Potočnik, Chair of ForumforAg 2022 and Chairman of the RISE Foundation and Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to give the opening address. Now is not the time to retreat from the EU Green Deal, Mr Potočnik argued, but to invest further in soil health, biodiversity and new agtech to achieve food security. With the war in Ukraine and worldwide fear of a global food and energy crisis, action clearly needs to be taken to prevent potential terrible hunger. But we still need to act for the long term. “Solving the current conflict-related crisis should not, and cannot, compromise our ability to tackle the triple planetary crises of climate emergency, biodiversity loss and pollution,” Mr Potočnik said.

Czech intro session

COVID and Ukraine have only accelerated the need to transition our food system to one that is robust and sustainable, restores biodiversity, reduces emissions, sequesters carbon, and provides affordable, nutritious food for us all.
Multiple approach is needed. Mr Potočnik listed a number of key points to achieve food security – on livestock, marine production systems, “amazing” agricultural technologies, pollinators, soils, and food waste. Food security is also about policies not directly related to food and the future of forests.

“This multiple approach may seem a long way from the economic counter-offensive – the single, swift response – that political and media logic demands. But it is less strange to those working to hold back the underlying planetary crisis. Here, the cumulative effect of many positive, system-changing decisions is almost the only thing keeping a stable and safe world within reach.”
He said we must link resource use to fundamental human needs and optimize the systems that deliver them. “Nature is a large eco-system getting bankrupt due to our behaviour.” Climate crisis efforts are driven by the supply side, yet demand-side mitigation could reduce global GHGs in some sectors by up to 70% by 2050, he continued. He highlighted differing policy signals and market signals creating confusion.

Concluding, he said: “Focusing only on cleaning the current production systems will unfortunately not be enough. We must enter the untapped territories of the needed deep system transformation. If we want to avoid extinction of elephants in nature, we need to extinct elephants in the rooms.”

Read Mr Potočnik’s remarks in full for further information.

Biodiversity framework to maintain agriculture production

In the second part of the welcome session, Ladislav Miko, Deputy Director-General for the Food Chain, Health and Food Safety Department (DG SANTE), European Commission and special advisor to Czech Minister of Environment, and Lukas Visek, Member of the Cabinet of Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, discussed ways to restore biodiversity above and below ground.
Mr Miko emphasized that “we can’t go on with business as usual for one single day”. Maintaining biodiversity is no longer enough, it is vital to restore it. He highlighted two key elements: the health and fertility of soils, and the structure and functions of agriculturally managed land.

On soil, Mr Miko said that “the loss of organic matter and the destruction of the structure of soils leads to a dramatic loss in soil biodiversity and the subsequent layers of biodiversity above ground. There is only one solution to it. We need to try to find ways to return the organic matter”. Soil is the biggest reservoir of carbon, yet instead of capturing it, soil has started to produce carbon. Our minor scale of action has no chance of restoring biodiversity for all farmlands. Many protective measures need to be put in place, such as support for pollinators and agricultural methods.

The food chain as a whole

Mr Visek made the point that “we can no longer compartmentalize the food chain”, reminding guests that it is two years since the EU launched far-reaching initiatives to make the food system sustainable and support the Green Deal. “We need to consider the food chain as a whole, and everybody has a role to play.” He said that land and sea-based food systems are one of the most important drivers of biodiversity loss, yet they also run the biggest risk of biodiversity collapses. The European Commission will adopt new pesticide legislation in June which will “help us bring more nature into farming, and it will also stimulate innovation, as we will need to replace chemical pesticides with alternatives, with knowledge, with technology”. The ambition is to reduce the use and the risk of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030.

But the EU food system still leads too many consumers to unhealthy food choices with negative effects on health and quality of life, and a substantial cost to society, Mr Visek said. In the EU, 20% of food is wasted: “Just think about the impact it has, not just on climate change, but also on the biodiversity loss, because we need to use pesticides to produce this food.” Forthcoming legislation – to help reduce food waste, to set targets on nature restoration, and the long-awaited soil health law – should help. He echoed the risk of the war in Ukraine driving a global food crisis. There would be no shortage of food in the EU, but “we need to reduce the dependency of the EU food system on import inputs such as fossil fuels, fertilizers, feed and raw materials”.

Watch the recording of the full discussion for further information.

Steps to achieve the CAP targets
Czech Regional Event session 1 summary

At the ForumforAg Czech Regional conference held on May 18 at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, the pressing question posed during session 1 ‘Can we achieve the environmental targets with the new CAP and the National Strategic Plans?’ brought our panellists plenty of challenges from the audience. Livestock reduction, how best to improve soil, and the need for wide consultation on the national plan were among them.

Czech intro session

How does the CAP strategy tie in to farmers’ interests?

Pierre Bascou, Director Sustainability Directorate, DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, said the goal is to support a sustainable transition of the whole food chain, and the climate neutrality of the entire land use sector. And to do so while balancing the economic objectives and helping farmers with their environmental and climate performance. It was essential to accompany farmers by offering them training and advisory services. “We need to support and encourage farmers to innovate, to change practices, to adapt to the latest knowledge in terms of agronomic practices, producing, way of marketing, etc.”

Can the CAP goals be achieved at scale?

Martin Hlavacek MEP, Member of the European Parliament, said “we could, but very likely we will not”. To succeed, the 10 million farmers across Europe all need a solution they can implement on the ground. Member states have flexibility, losing the commonality of the CAP – and some of the practices states adopt may not bring results. Better policy coherence is also needed if Europe is to achieve the CAP goals, he said, citing legislative barriers that block technological innovations. Success depends on whether Europe sticks with business as usual or allows acceleration of the trends that need to be accelerated.

Alžběta Procházková, WWF Central & Eastern Europe, said environmental objectives needed to be fine-tuned for a specific area, for a specific region. “So we have to tailor make the objectives and prepare a scale of the rules for environmental measures so that they can be applied across the whole of the EU.”

One farmer present took issue with the EU on a number of policy approaches: on reducing livestock farming – “which we need for manure” – , on farming land in smaller parcels, and on “not being ambitious enough” in reducing pesticide use. Speaking as another highly experienced famer, panellist Monika Nebeská, Chairwoman of the Board, Agricultural Cooperative Všestary, agreed it was “nonsense” to continue reducing livestock as it was a part of the agricultural cycle, for example, contributing to retaining water in the landscape. On pesticides, she said farmers were bound to stick to limits but there was no real support for how to do that. “It’s restrictions and restrictions again, only farming that that is blamed.”

Is the Czech Republic ambitious enough in its draft national strategic plan as regards environment and climate?
Pierre Bascou answered that the ambition was “not sufficient” in three areas – 1, greenhouse gas emissions, 2, biodiversity protection and development and, 3, the design and definition of the different types of intervention that would help farmers to improve in their environmental and climate performance. “This is what we are currently discussing, to revise the level of ambition upwards,” he said.

Do we need evolution or revolution?

“Should we perhaps be more lenient and slower in introducing these measures? Have the farmers had enough time to impose these measures, to implement these measures?” asked the Moderator, journalist Naděžda Hávová. Pierre Bascou said it was neither – rather, accelerated evolution. “We need to accelerate the transition which is currently on the table… We need to provide financial incentive. We need to provide advisory. We need to facilitate the use of innovation… We need to better tailor the financial support… because each farmer needs a specific solution.”

Martin Hlavacek added that what is needed is an evolution of the practices on the farm but a revolution in other areas, for example, technology. “Why are we not having a revolution on new genomic techniques? If we are talking about reduction of fertilizers and pesticides, why we are not having a revolution… on approvals of new active substances and authorizations of alternatives to those we are banning?”
Building on the question, Alžběta Procházková said what was needed was cooperation. In her opinion, in the Czech Republic in particular, “we have a problem because the cooperation is not sufficient… some farmers see us (NGOs) as opponents, as somebody doing things that go against what farmers want to do. And they don’t believe that we are searching for joint solutions.” She called for greater cooperation, including in the drafting process for the national plan and between different ministries. Better communication with the public was also needed – society as a whole needs to own the plan.

Would you like to explore the debate in greater depth? Watch the recording of the full discussion.

More than one pathway to climate-biodiversity-food harmony
Czech Regional Event session 2 summary

How best to integrate climate mitigation and biodiversity regeneration in food system transformation? In our third session at the ForumforAg Czech Regional conference held on May 18 at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, an expert panel tackled the complexity of this 3-way challenge and how to implement practical solutions, while still giving choices. Discussion flourished as each gave their – and their organization’s – perspective, from farmer to landowner, private sector to NGO.

Czech session 2

After introductions by the Moderator, Naděžda Hávová, Jurgen Tack, Scientific Director, ELO, opened by describing the relentless march of the changing climate, and the disastrous effect on biodiversity and food. He outlined the two strategies to tackle climate change – adaptation and mitigation: adaptation is typically the way for individuals and mitigation for larger organizations. Farmers have been adapting for four decades. Recent European policies – to sequester carbon, reduce emissions, improve soils – are a shift towards mitigation. Mr Tack said farmers are developing a positive attitude towards both strategies on climate change. But the relationship between farmers and biodiversity is more complicated. They are competing for land and there are often opposing views from farmers and nature conservation organisations. There is a tendency to take more extreme positions in the discussion.
“In this debate we need much more nuanced opinions,” Mr Tack said. They do not do well in social media or present-day politics, but “it’s the only way forward in a world becoming more and more complex. And in a world where we have to combine solutions for biodiversity, solutions for climate, solutions for food, food security.”

In search of solutions

Barbara Pia Oberč, Policy and Project Officer, European Regional Office in Brussels, IUCN, agreed that climate change and biodiversity loss are “two interlinked existential crises and two sides of the same coin”. She highlighted some statistics to illustrate the pressures: for example, IUCN’s red list assesses over 112,000 species, of which nearly a third are threatened with extinction. For her, the question is not “what do we need, but how do we get there”. IUCN has examined 14 potential pathways which have commonalities but also diversity: “It’s about a combination of what makes sense in the circumstances that you’re dealing with.”

Ms Oberč said debate needs to be about the whole food value chain, not just producing food, including the cost of the transition, calling for “open, constructive and positive dialog among all stakeholders”. Key opportunities coming up: the strategic plans ahead of the new CAP in 2023, the Sustainable Food Systems Framework Initiative, the Pollinator Initiative, Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, and the Global Biodiversity Framework Post 2020.

“Trust farmers more so they take responsibility”

The global nature of climate and biodiversity challenges was stressed Dr. Miroslava Bavorová, Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Development, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague. A large share of food insecure people around the globe are smallholder farmers, yet policies in the less developed economies are mainly oriented on achieving food security in Europe. Her impression was that ”everything has to be institutionalized and that farmers need very specific directives and only then they will treat their land in an environmentally friendly way”. Society wants to pay farmers to be environmentally responsibly, yet they are intrinsically motivated to do so. “Farmers do not want to destroy their land… so I would support trusting farmers more so they take the responsibility of being environmentally friendly… this is also already happening, especially in the Czech Republic.” Dr. Bavorová also mentioned Australia, where she said most agriculture policies and direct payments to farmers had been abolished.

Focus on a private sector role

Petr Adler, Head of Sales and Country Leader, Czech Republic, Syngenta, described his company’s role “to bring innovation to the market, share information and be there for the agricultural producers… the ones who share the biggest burden of the changes”. Also to interconnect individual stakeholders, including strategies to communicate to end consumers.

With questions from the audience, debate moved to the Sustainable Use Regulation and the target to reduce synthetic pesticide by 50%. Petr Adler said Syngenta would first come up with a solution that functions within these limits. “But when it comes to solving food crisis, we have to reach outside of Europe and everybody must contribute to the solution for that.”

If you would like to explore the debate in greater depth, watch the recording of the full discussion.

Adapting forests for the future climate
Czech Regional Event session 3 summary

The final session of the ForumforAg Czech Regional conference held on May 18 at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague was an opportunity to hear experts discuss the type of forest the world needs to mitigate climate change.

Czech session 4

Opening the session, the Moderator, Constantin Kinský, Vice President and Member of the Board of the Private Forests Chamber in the Czech Republic (SVOL) and European delegate, European Landowners Association, set the scene by saying that what was common to all parties was that we do not know how far climate change will go. We do know the climate is warming, more so on the ground, and that trees are dying, but the exact scenario we face is not clear.

For that reason, he said the debate would take a specific climate change scenario and answer what kind of forests were needed to address it – “concrete answers that can help foresters make the right decisions on the ground and help us make the right decisions as a society”.
The first panellist, Alessandro Cescatti, Senior scientist, Directorate for Sustainable Resources, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, alluded to the trees in The Lord of the Rings and asked: what would trees tell us if they could talk, and where would they go if they could walk? The signals trees are sending out say they are facing unprecedented challenges. Warming is reducing the availability of water and drying out the trees, reducing resilience and putting the carbon capture potential of the tree at risk. Too many of the same species exacerbate the problem because they all need the same resource at the same time. And if trees could walk they would move north to avoid higher temperatures. Many trees are already at the edge of the limits of the climate change they can withstand.

So how to adapt? asked Mr Cescatti. We have to plan forests for the end of the century, when we don’t know exactly what conditions will be. There are also social and cultural barriers to be overcome, for example, about what can be planted where. Despite that, we need to increase genetic diversity. On the positive side, he said, some of the harsh confrontations between different stakeholders are dissolving: “We are all after the same objective now, which is building resilient forests that can withstand the climate of the next century.”

Piloting forest adaptation in France

The French perspective was given by Erwin Ulrich, Head of the mission to adapt forests to climate change, Forestry and Natural Hazards Directorate, ONF, Office National des Forêts, France, who spoke about his work piloting the adaptation of forests on a national level. “We want to continue to guarantee multifunctional forests everywhere, because they correspond to our forestry culture and to society’s wishes,” he said. Mr Ulrich described some of the actions to be taken, including re-establishing balanced, wild game populations; creating much more mixed forests with two to three main tree species, and new tree species, also from abroad; and protecting biodiversity. Mosaic forest concepts would also be developed, with diversity of species adapted to regions. He said experimental plots would be monitored for 30-50 years.

Call for a mindset change

Building on the need for different species and diversity, Mr Kinský said that the most conservative people were not foresters but environmental agencies who were often backward rather than forward looking. “We need a mindset change… in particular of the regulations and the law,” he said.

Jiří Svoboda, President of the Association of Municipal, Private and Church Forest Owners in the Czech Republic (SVOL) said that the Czech Republic environmental agency was “one of the strictest in the world” and foresters are sometimes left with a choice of only four to five species. He said he would like to see discussions on forestry legislation re-opened.

Commonality and subsidiarity

The discussion turned to the question of balance – between commonality across Europe, but also subsidiarity for local decisions which are right for the conditions. Mr Kinský reminded policymakers that they needed to listen to local foresters “because we have to deliver the job”, and foresters could commit to listen to policymakers “because we know that we need a wide variety of opinions to be able to find a solution”. He continued: “We don’t expect to have a precise answer… it’s very difficult. But you have a duty to open that debate and we have a duty to call for that debate. You will not be able to achieve without us and we will not be able to achieve anything without you.”
Tomáš Vrška, Director, University Forest Enterprise Křtiny, Mendel University in Brno, commented that “when you work with the concept of natural restoration and nature based restoration, it needs to be really location specific. You simply can’t do a desk study and write down a law that stipulates this or that.”

Wood as a renewable raw material for industry

The commercial view on the future of forests and climate change came from Johanna Pirinen, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, Stora Enso Wood Products Division. Ms Pirinen said that the forest-based renewable products that Stora Enso brings to the market have a three-fold climate benefit – 1) the forest as it grows is sequestering carbon from the atmosphere; 2) the product stores the carbon for its long lifetime or when recycled; 3) there is the “substitution effect” of replacing oil-based plastics. “We are talking about having walls out of mass timber instead of concrete,” she said, emphasizing the huge impact of utilizing a renewable raw material in a beneficial way. Of course, it needs to be based on sustainable forest management.

Mr Vrška was confident that companies would respond to the different proportions of hard wood available to them. “Here in the Czech Republic, we are having this friendly debate about the future… I personally would not be afraid at all in terms of what the food processing industry will be buying from us.”

Farmers and foresters together

The session opened to a wide range of questions from the audience before wrapping up with short messages from additional guests: Emmanuelle Mikosz, Forum for the Future of Agriculture Programme Director; Sabine von Wirén-Lehr, Director of EU Affairs, Tetrta Pak; and Alberto Arroyo Schnell, Head of Policy and Programme, IUCN European Regional Office. Thierry de l’Escaille, Secretary General, European Landowners’ Organization, thanked the event’s Czech hosts and the university, partners, panellists, moderators, and the event producers. He said the Forum had launched 15 years ago to foster open debate about agriculture and now it needed to do the same for forests – bringing together farmers and foresters because “it’s crucial we do this together”.

Like to hear more on forestry from our experts panellists? Watch the full discussion and check out the other sessions of our Czech Republic Regional Event.

Comments from
Pierre Bascou, Director Sustainability Directorate, DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission

Pierre Bascou, Director Sustainability Directorate, DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, spoke during Session 1 at our recent Czech Regional event. We asked him for a summary of his speech.

Czech Session 1

We are currently living in a world characterised by many uncertainties and crises, which, due to their different nature and impact, call for a differentiated policy response.

The growing impact of climate change and of biodiversity loss has led us to engage into a progressive and irreversible long-term transition towards sustainability, resilience, competitiveness, and climate neutrality in the framework of the new growth strategy of the EU, the Green Deal, and for agriculture and the food system, of the Farm to Fork strategy.

We should make no mistake: this transition to sustainable agriculture and food system is our only path if we are to continue ensuring the long-term food security to our citizens in the EU and beyond.

But delivering on this ambitious vision requires a progressive and irreversible transition at all stages of the food supply chain, and a change of mindset from all actors. We need to change how we produce and how we consume.

Reaching this environmental and climate ambition and the several environmental targets will need to build on a series of policy initiatives related not only to agriculture, but covering the whole food supply chain, with initiatives related to the establishment of a legislative framework for sustainable food system, actions to ensure sustainable production at farm and food industry level, actions to promote the shift towards healthy and sustainable food diets, reduction of food wastes and the promotion of the transition at global level.

These initiatives will rely upon or combine with the implementation of the biodiversity and soil strategies, the FitFor55 package, the upcoming environmental legislation related to soil and nature protection, the revision of the some key legislations related to PPP, the full implementation of the existing environmental and climate legislation as well as the action plans related the circular bio-based economy, zero pollution, organic farming, integrated nutrient management just to name a few.

It is important to mention all these policy and legal initiatives (existing or upcoming) because it is their coordinated and coherent definition and implementation that will enable us to achieve the environmental and climate ambition that we are all looking for, for agriculture and for the rest of the food chain.

The future CAP will in turn provide a key contribution to this endeavour by promoting and supporting this transition towards sustainability, resilience and competitiveness at farm level, within the overall objective and policy orientation of the Green Deal and in full coherence with environmental and climate legislation.

Achieving this ambition is based on 4 elements:

First, the introduction of a new and more effective delivery model, offering more flexibility for Member States and ensuring policy coherence with the environmental and climate legislation;

Second, the introduction of a new green architecture, including an enhanced system of conditionality for all farmers (with significant requirements supporting on-farm biodiversity, soil agronomic capacity, but also practices supporting climate mitigation) and financial incentives such as the eco-schemes, in addition to the existing measures under the PII. All these instruments will benefit from impactful ring-fencing obligations (25% in PI and 35% PII).

The third element relates to the specific role of research and innovation and the need to better accompany farmers in this transition, in particular through the sharing of knowledge and the provision of advisory services.

The fourth important field of action relates to the necessity to improve the economic viability and competitiveness of the agricultural sector to ensure the transformation and transition in a balanced and just manner.

In this path towards sustainability, Member States will play a key role with their NSP that we are currently evaluating in view of validating them before the end of this year.

However, after looking at the environmental and climate objectives of the strategic plans received, we consider that overall more work will be needed (and this is the case of the CZE plan, notably as regards the climate ambition and biodiversity protection).

In many cases, we did not have enough information to assess sufficient ambition and contribution to the CAP environmental and climate objectives. Moreover, contribution to and consistency with other climate and environment legislation is not always demonstrated (e.g. link with the National energy and climate plan, or the Prioritised action framework in Natura 2000 in CZE).

A few plans show a relatively good potential but many, like the CZE plan, will require adaptation to ensure full conformity with legal requirements, including on the aspects of coherence between the needs identified and the interventions designed – and the targets set – to address these needs.

The definition of baseline requirements for all area-based payments (the conditionality) is sometimes not meeting expected levels. For example on the GAECs 6 and 7 (minimum soil cover and crop rotation), a number of Member States including CZE want to exempt some parts of the arable land from the soil cover obligation or set a too low minimum duration for the intermediate crop to be taken into account for crop rotation. This does not seem in line with the regulation.

While MS budgetary allocations complies with the minimum level of spending fixed by the Regulation or even go above, the scope and ambition of many eco schemes and agro-environmental measures requires further work. In total, MS have proposed almost 184 eco-schemes and more than 250 agro-environment-climate schemes, varying in coverage and practices. Many are well developed, but others are unclear in terms of aim or specific requirements to effectively tackle the environmental and climate challenges recognized in the analyses.

On organic farming, Member States are generally ambitious (this is the case of CZE) with respect to the development of organic farming with some Member States still requiring further efforts to enhance ambition or relevance of the support. When assessing the related interventions, the Commission takes account of the different starting points and specific national circumstances of each Member State.
Finally, in terms of renewable energy, all Member States, including CZE, have been requested to step up their ambition and finance investments in this domain. The CAP Plans can provide for an effective contribution to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels, both through the production of renewable energy such as biogas, as well as with the increase of organic fertilisers.

Before concluding, I would like to underline that the Commission is aware that the context in which Member States have designed their draft Plans has substantially changed with the Russian invasion on Ukraine and this will be considered in the approval process.

That is why in the communication on food security and in the observation letters sent to MS, we called on the Member States to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of the sector by, for example, using funding to boost sustainable biogas production, improve energy efficiency, foster agro-ecological practices, support protein crop production, precision agriculture and develop their knowledge and innovation systems.

V současné době žijeme ve světě, který se vyznačuje mnoha nejistotami a krizemi, jež vzhledem ke své různé povaze a dopadu vyžadují diferencovanou politickou reakci.

Rostoucí dopady změny klimatu a úbytku biologické rozmanitosti nás vedou k tomu, abychom se v rámci nové strategie růstu EU, Zelené dohody, a v případě zemědělství a potravinového systému Strategie Farm to Fork, zapojili do postupného a nezvratného dlouhodobého přechodu k udržitelnosti, odolnosti, konkurenceschopnosti a klimatické neutralitě.

Neměli bychom se mýlit: tento přechod k udržitelnému zemědělství a potravinovému systému je naší jedinou cestou, pokud chceme i nadále zajišťovat dlouhodobou potravinovou bezpečnost našich občanů v EU i mimo ni.

Naplnění této ambiciózní vize však vyžaduje postupný a nezvratný přechod ve všech fázích potravinového řetězce a změnu myšlení všech aktérů. Musíme změnit způsob výroby i spotřeby.

Dosažení této environmentální a klimatické ambice a několika environmentálních cílů bude muset vycházet z řady politických iniciativ týkajících se nejen zemědělství, ale pokrývajících celý potravinový řetězec, s iniciativami souvisejícími s vytvořením legislativního rámce pro udržitelný potravinový systém, opatřeními k zajištění udržitelné produkce na úrovni zemědělských podniků a potravinářského průmyslu, opatřeními na podporu přechodu ke zdravému a udržitelnému stravování, snižováním potravinového odpadu a podporou tohoto přechodu i na globální úrovni.

Tyto iniciativy se budou opírat o provádění strategií v oblasti biologické rozmanitosti a půdy, balíčku FitFor55, připravovaných právních předpisů v oblasti životního prostředí týkajících se ochrany půdy a přírody, revize některých klíčových právních předpisů souvisejících s přípravky na ochranu rostlin, plnou implementací stávajících právních předpisů v oblasti životního prostředí a klimatu, jakož i akčních plánů týkajících se oběhového hospodářství založeného na biologických zdrojích, nulovém znečištění, ekologickém zemědělství a integrovaném řízení živin, a to je jen několik příkladů.

Je důležité zmínit všechny tyto politické a právní iniciativy (stávající nebo připravované), protože právě jejich koordinované a koherentní vymezení a implementace nám umožní dosáhnout ambicí v oblasti životního prostředí a klimatu, o které všichni usilujeme, a to jak pro zemědělství, tak pro ostatní části potravinářského řetězce.

Budoucí SZP k tomuto úsilí zásadně přispěje tím, že bude prosazovat a podporovat tento přechod k udržitelnosti, odolnosti a konkurenceschopnosti na úrovni zemědělských podniků, a to v rámci celkového cíle a politického zaměření Zelené dohody a v plném souladu s právními předpisy v oblasti životního prostředí a klimatu.

Dosažení této ambice je založeno na 4 prvcích:

o Za prvé, zavedení nového a účinnějšího modelu realizace, který členským státům nabídne větší flexibilitu a zajistí soudržnost politiky s právními předpisy v oblasti životního prostředí a klimatu;

o Za druhé, zavedení nové zelené architektury, včetně rozšířeného systému podmíněnosti pro všechny zemědělce (s významnými požadavky na podporu biologické rozmanitosti v zemědělských podnicích, agronomické kapacity půdy, ale také postupů podporujících zmírňování změny klimatu) a finančních pobídek, jako jsou eko-schémata, jako doplněk ke stávajícím opatřením v rámci Pilíře II. Všechny tyto nástroje budou mít prospěch z povinnosti vyčlenit na ně významné procento (25 % v Pilíři I a 35 % v Pilíři II).

o Třetí prvek se týká specifické úlohy výzkumu a inovací a potřeby lépe podporovat zemědělce při tomto přechodu, zejména prostřednictvím sdílení znalostí a poskytování poradenských služeb.

o Čtvrtá důležitá oblast činnosti se týká nutnosti zlepšit ekonomickou životaschopnost a konkurenceschopnost zemědělského odvětví, aby byla transformace a přechod zajištěny vyváženým a spravedlivým způsobem.

Na této cestě k udržitelnosti budou hrát klíčovou roli členské státy se svými národními strategickými plány, které v současné době vyhodnocujeme s cílem schválit je do konce tohoto roku.

Po posouzení environmentálních a klimatických cílů obdržených strategických plánů se však domníváme, že celkově budou zapotřebí více dopracovat (a to je případ plánu CZE, zejména pokud jde o klimatické ambice a ochranu biologické rozmanitosti).

V mnoha případech jsme neměli dostatek informací, abychom mohli posoudit dostatečné ambice a příspěvek k cílům SZP v oblasti životního prostředí a klimatu. Kromě toho nebyl vždy prokázán příspěvek k dalším právním předpisům v oblasti klimatu a životního prostředí a jejich soulad s nimi (např. vazba na Národní plán v oblasti energetiky a klimatu nebo prioritní akční rámec v rámci soustavy Natura 2000 v ČR).
Několik plánů vykazuje poměrně dobrý potenciál, ale mnohé z nich, jako například plán ČR, budou vyžadovat úpravy, aby byl zajištěn plný soulad s právními požadavky, včetně aspektů soudržnosti mezi zjištěnými potřebami a navrženými intervencemi – a stanovenými cíli – k řešení těchto potřeb.

Definice základních požadavků pro všechny platby na plochu (podmíněnost) někdy nesplňuje očekávanou úroveň. Například u GAEC 6 a 7 (minimální půdní pokryv a střídání plodin) chce řada členských států včetně ČR vyjmout některé části orné půdy z povinnosti půdního pokryvu nebo stanovit příliš nízkou minimální dobu trvání meziplodiny, která má být zohledněna pro střídání plodin. To se nezdá být v souladu s nařízením.

Rozpočtové příděly členských států sice odpovídají minimální úrovni výdajů stanovené nařízením, nebo ji dokonce překračují, ale rozsah a ambice mnoha ekologických programů a agroenvironmentálních opatření vyžadují další dopracování. Celkem členské státy navrhly téměř 184 ekologických programů a více než 250 agroenvironmentálně-klimatických programů, které se liší rozsahem a postupy. Mnohé z nich jsou dobře propracované, u jiných však není jasný cíl nebo konkrétní požadavky na účinné řešení environmentálních a klimatických výzev, které byly v analýzách rozpoznány.

Pokud jde o ekologické zemědělství, členské státy jsou obecně ambiciózní (to je i případ ČR), pokud jde o rozvoj ekologického zemědělství, přičemž některé členské státy stále vyžadují další úsilí ke zvýšení ambicí nebo relevance podpory. Při posuzování souvisejících intervencí Komise zohledňuje různá východiska a specifické vnitrostátní podmínky jednotlivých členských států.

Pokud jde o obnovitelné zdroje energie, všechny členské státy včetně ČR byly vyzvány, aby zvýšily své ambice a financovaly investice v této oblasti. Plány SZP mohou účinně přispět ke snížení závislosti na fosilních palivech, a to jak výrobou energie z obnovitelných zdrojů, jako je bioplyn, tak i zvýšením spotřeby organických hnojiv.

Před závěrem bych rád zdůraznil, že Komise si je vědoma toho, že kontext, v němž členské státy své návrhy plánů koncipovaly, se v souvislosti s ruskou invazí na Ukrajinu podstatně změnil, což bude při schvalovacím procesu zohledněno.

Proto jsme ve sdělení o zajišťování potravinové bezpečnosti a v připomínkových dopisech zaslaných členským státům vyzvali členské státy, aby posílily odolnost a udržitelnost odvětví například využitím finančních prostředků na podporu udržitelné výroby bioplynu, zlepšení energetické účinnosti, podporu agroekologických postupů, podporu produkce bílkovinných plodin, precizního zemědělství a rozvoj svých systémů znalostí a inovací.

Nous vivons actuellement dans un monde caractérisé par de nombreuses incertitudes et crises qui, en raison de leur nature et de leur impact différents, appellent à une réponse politique différenciée.

L’impact croissant du changement climatique et de la perte de biodiversité nous a conduits à nous engager dans une transition progressive et irréversible à long terme vers la durabilité, la résilience, la compétitivité et la neutralité climatique dans le cadre de la nouvelle stratégie de croissance de l’UE, le Green Deal, et pour l’agriculture et le système alimentaire via la stratégie Farm to Fork.

Nous ne devons pas nous tromper : cette transition vers une agriculture et un système alimentaire durables est notre seule voie si nous voulons continuer à assurer la sécurité alimentaire à long terme de nos citoyens dans l’UE et au-delà.

Mais pour concrétiser cette vision ambitieuse, il faut une transition progressive et irréversible à tous les stades de la chaîne alimentaire, et un changement d’état d’esprit de la part de tous les acteurs. Nous devons changer notre façon de produire et de consommer.
Pour atteindre cette ambition environnementale et climatique et les différents objectifs environnementaux, il faudra s’appuyer sur une série d’initiatives politiques liées non seulement à l’agriculture, mais couvrant l’ensemble de la chaîne alimentaire, avec des initiatives liées à l’établissement d’un cadre législatif pour un système alimentaire durable, des actions visant à assurer une production durable au niveau des exploitations agricoles et de l’industrie alimentaire, des actions visant à promouvoir le passage à des régimes alimentaires sains et durables, la réduction des déchets alimentaires et la promotion de la transition au niveau mondial.

Ces initiatives s’appuieront ou se combineront avec la mise en œuvre des stratégies en matière de biodiversité et de sols, de l’ensemble FitFor55, de la future législation environnementale relative à la protection des sols et de la nature, de la révision de certaines législations clés relatives aux PPP, de la mise en œuvre complète de la législation environnementale et climatique existante ainsi que des plans d’action relatifs à l’économie biologique circulaire, à la pollution zéro, à l’agriculture biologique, à la gestion intégrée des nutriments, pour ne citer que quelques exemples.

Il est important de mentionner toutes ces initiatives politiques et juridiques (existantes ou à venir) car c’est leur définition et leur mise en œuvre coordonnées et cohérentes qui nous permettront d’atteindre l’ambition environnementale et climatique que nous recherchons tous, pour l’agriculture et pour le reste de la chaîne alimentaire.

La future PAC apportera à son tour une contribution essentielle à cette entreprise en favorisant et en soutenant cette transition vers la durabilité, la résilience et la compétitivité au niveau des exploitations agricoles, dans le cadre de l’objectif global et de l’orientation politique du Green Deal et en totale cohérence avec la législation environnementale et climatique.

La réalisation de cette ambition repose sur 4 éléments :

o Premièrement, l’introduction d’un nouveau modèle de prestation plus efficace, offrant plus de flexibilité aux États membres et garantissant la cohérence politique avec la législation environnementale et climatique ;

o Deuxièmement, l’introduction d’une nouvelle architecture verte, comprenant un système amélioré de conditionnalité pour tous les agriculteurs (avec des exigences importantes en faveur de la biodiversité sur l’exploitation, de la capacité agronomique des sols, mais aussi des pratiques favorisant l’atténuation du changement climatique) et des incitations financières telles que les éco-régimes, en plus des mesures existantes dans le cadre de la PII. Tous ces instruments bénéficieront d’obligations de délimitation des impacts (25 % dans l’IP et 35 % dans l’IPI).

o Le troisième élément concerne le rôle spécifique de la recherche et de l’innovation et la nécessité de mieux accompagner les agriculteurs dans cette transition, notamment par le partage des connaissances et la fourniture de services de conseil.

o Le quatrième champ d’action important concerne la nécessité d’améliorer la viabilité économique et la compétitivité du secteur agricole pour assurer la transformation et la transition de manière équilibrée et juste.

Dans ce cheminement vers la durabilité, les États membres joueront un rôle clé avec leurs PSN que nous évaluons actuellement en vue de les valider avant la fin de cette année.

Cependant, après avoir examiné les objectifs environnementaux et climatiques des plans stratégiques reçus, nous considérons que, dans l’ensemble, davantage de travail sera nécessaire (et c’est le cas du plan de la République Tchèque, notamment en ce qui concerne l’ambition climatique et la protection de la biodiversité).

Dans de nombreux cas, nous ne disposions pas de suffisamment d’informations pour évaluer l’ambition et la contribution aux objectifs environnementaux et climatiques de la PAC. De plus, la contribution et la cohérence avec d’autres législations sur le climat et l’environnement ne sont pas toujours démontrées (par exemple, le lien avec le plan national sur l’énergie et le climat ou le cadre d’action prioritaire de Natura 2000 en République Tchèque).

Quelques plans présentent un potentiel relativement bon, mais beaucoup, comme le plan de la République Tchèque, devront être adaptés pour garantir une conformité totale avec les exigences légales, notamment en ce qui concerne la cohérence entre les besoins identifiés et les interventions conçues – et les objectifs fixés – pour répondre à ces besoins.

La définition des exigences de base pour tous les paiements par zone (la conditionnalité) ne répond parfois pas aux niveaux attendus. Par exemple, en ce qui concerne les BCAE 6 et 7 (couverture minimale des sols et rotation des cultures), un certain nombre d’États membres, dont la République Tchèque, souhaitent exempter certaines parties des terres arables de l’obligation de couverture des sols ou fixer une durée minimale trop faible pour la culture intermédiaire à prendre en compte pour la rotation des cultures. Cela ne semble pas conforme au règlement.

Si les dotations budgétaires des États membres respectent le niveau minimal de dépenses fixé par le règlement, voire le dépassent, la portée et l’ambition de nombreux programmes écologiques et mesures agroenvironnementales nécessitent des efforts supplémentaires. Au total, les États Membres ont proposé près de 184 eco-schemes et plus de 250 mesures agro-environnementales et climatiques, dont la couverture et les pratiques varient. Beaucoup sont bien développés, mais d’autres manquent de clarté en termes d’objectif ou d’exigences spécifiques pour relever efficacement les défis environnementaux et climatiques reconnus dans les analyses.

En ce qui concerne l’agriculture biologique, les États membres sont généralement ambitieux (c’est le cas de la République Tchèque) en ce qui concerne le développement de l’agriculture biologique, mais certains États membres doivent encore faire des efforts pour renforcer l’ambition ou la pertinence de l’aide. Lorsqu’elle évalue les interventions correspondantes, la Commission tient compte des différents points de départ et des circonstances nationales spécifiques de chaque État membre.

Enfin, en ce qui concerne les énergies renouvelables, tous les États membres, y compris la République Tchèque, ont été invités à renforcer leurs ambitions et à financer des investissements dans ce domaine. Les plans de la PAC peuvent contribuer efficacement à réduire la dépendance à l’égard des combustibles fossiles, à la fois par la production d’énergie renouvelable, comme le biogaz, et par l’augmentation des engrais organiques.

Avant de conclure, je voudrais souligner que la Commission est consciente que le contexte dans lequel les États membres ont conçu leurs projets de plans a considérablement changé avec l’invasion de l’Ukraine par la Russie, ce qui sera pris en compte dans le processus d’approbation.

C’est pourquoi, dans la communication sur la sécurité alimentaire et dans les lettres d’observation envoyées aux États membres, nous avons appelé ces derniers à renforcer la résilience et la durabilité du secteur, par exemple en utilisant les fonds pour stimuler la production durable de biogaz, améliorer l’efficacité énergétique, encourager les pratiques agroécologiques, soutenir la production de protéagineux, l’agriculture de précision et développer leurs systèmes de connaissance et d’innovation.

Comments from
Monika Nebeská, Chairwoman of the Board, Agricultural Cooperative Všestary

Monika Nebeská, Chairwoman of the Board, Agricultural Cooperative Všestary, spoke during Session 1 at our recent Czech Regional event. We asked her for a summary of her speech particularly covering the question ‘Can we achieve the environmental targets with the new CAP and the National Strategic Plans?’

Czech Session 1

In my opinion, the objectives for strengthening the sustainability and greening of the European economy, including the agri-food sector, as defined in the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategyand reflected in the Common Agricultural Policy, are very ambitious.

It really makes me concerned about the impact these objectives will have on agricultural practice. Especially in an economic and political situation that is significantly different from the time these goals were adopted. It is alarming that there is no impact assessment for the strategies presented. I am afraid that there will be a fall in agricultural production, hence a fall in exports, and I then conclude that there will be a sharp drop in farmers’ incomes. As a result, all this will lead to a further dramatic rise in food prices.

It worries me that the Czech Republic’s ambitions in this area are also very high. We know that the European Commission has given Member States a great scope for subsidiarity, and the Czech Ministry of Agriculture has submitted a plan that is more ambitious than the objectives and requirements defined by the European Commission. In the new CAP, the Czech Republic is even the most ambitious in Europe in a number of parameters – for example, it plans to allocate 30% of the money for ecosystems to the first pillar. Furthermore, 23% of the budget for redistribution of payments – here we also rank first on a European scale. In neighbouring Germany, Poland and Slovakia, for example, they have a maximum of 10-12% for redistributive payments. In addition, the European Commission has decided to release a crisis reserve of €470 million to support agriculture in individual Member States in order to compensate for expensive inputs and the loss of export markets. The Commission has even allowed each Member State an increase of up to 200% on national top-up payments, and a number of our neighbours have already announced that they will use of this option. However, this is the Czech government, who is not planning to do so.

However, overly ambitious plans have an impact not only on Czech Farmers, but also on agriculture on a European scale. I find it ridiculous that Third Countries do not have to follow the rules. What about our European competitiveness? Aren’t we scoring an own goal? At a time when the European Commission is still calling for a reduction in dependence on oil and gas, on imports (including fertilisers, protein crops, etc.), at a time when, on the contrary, it is necessary to strengthen agri-food self-sufficiency, a very dangerous game is at stake. We do call and will call for maximum simplification of the whole system. And we will call for a system that is fair to all and realistic at the same time.

Another major challenge for European agriculture, for meeting climate goals and ensuring self-sufficiency is the war in Ukraine. The price of wheat has been rising, by more than 20% since the war beginning and by almost 75% compared to last year. Another limited export commodity is fertilisers, which, in addition to Russia, are also produced in large quantities by Belarus. Their price has jumped by around three times year-on-year. Although the Czech Republic is one of the smaller “fertilisers” within the EU, with about 120 kilograms of fertiliser per hectare (of which about 75% is nitrogen fertiliser), compared to about 160 kg in Europe – this price rise means a big financial blow for farmers. Given the ever-increasing fuel prices, rising fertiliser prices may be just the imaginary nail in the coffin of European farmers.

Undoubtedly, such ambitious goals require ambitious funding.However, it is a pure reality that within the entire European Union, the Czech Republic’s budget funds are cut the most. This is most pronounced in Pillar II of the CAP. Why does the level of support differ? Excessively high demands are placed on us for significantly less money. In practice, this means that the basic payment will be €75, now it’s €230… I don’t want to downplay the importance of environmental protection, the Commission’s focus on strengthening the sustainability of the sector is certainly a sensible direction, but I don’t want it to be us – farmers – who will be burdened by all the restrictions that are coming…

Changes must go hand in hand with farmers and not the other way around. We need to realise what we farmers have already achieved, what initiatives we have taken, and we cannot continue to be merely punished. We must work together, not against each other, to achieve a sustainable future together. Without proper funding, without proper help, we will not be able to do it.
I believe that the Czech government is listening to us and will take into account the views of all farmers, whose role in the national economy and environmental protection is unquestionable. And while we may have different perspectives on the issue, it is clear that all of us who work with the land strive for the same thing: food self-sufficiency and thus ultimately national food security and, of course, care for the environment.

The attitudes of the Czech government will be particularly important in the view of the forthcoming Czech Presidency and the related influence on European decision-making. At that time, for example, the revision of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive will be discussed. According to the current proposal, the consumption of pesticides across Europe is to be halved by 2030. Can Czech farmers cope with this restriction? Or will the Czech Republic have to import more food from other countries? Then there is the proposal for a revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive, which was presented by the European Commission at the beginning of April. Industrial emissions include beef cattle, poultry and pig emissions for all farms with more than 150 large livestock units. If the EC’s proposal passes, the directive will have its impact not on 20 000 farms in the EU, as it is today, but on 160 000 farms in the European Union.

t – My favourite philosopher and geologist RNDr. Václav Cílek says that soil and food are even more wealth and security than we have thought for at least fifty years. I wish people realized that.

This text reflects the speech of Mrs. Monika Nebeská at the Prague Regional ForumforAg Conference on May 18, 2022. On May 25, 2022, the Government of the Czech Republic approved the submitted version of the strategic plan. Thus, the amount of redistributive payments that farmers receive on the first 150 hectares of land will remain at 23% of the total amount for direct payments.