Europe: Ensuring a modern and sustainable agriculture sector

Janusz Wojciechowski, courtesy of European Parliament

Here, we learn about Janusz Wojciechowski and his priorities: Ensuring a modern and sustainable agriculture sector in Europe that adapts to changes in climate, demographics and technologies

Janusz Wojciechowski was appointed as the European Commissioner for Agriculture in 2019, and with this position comes many responsibilities. Ensuring a modern and sustainable European agriculture sector that adapts to changes in climate, demographics and technologies is the main mission of Wojciechowski’s, alongside providing affordable food for citizens and a fair standard of living for farmers. Today, around 21 million people work in 11 million farms across Europe. Wojciechowski has made it clear that he understands the difficulties of farming and does not take his position lightly: “I am not someone who has only observed the agricultural sector from a distance. I was born and brought up in a rural area with a long farming tradition. I developed a feeling for what it is like to work on the land. I believe that is something a person has to experience for himself or herself if they are to understand farmers.” (1)

He is part of the Commissioners’ Group on the European Green Deal to help farmers to play their part in the transition towards a climate-neutral society in 2050 and to develop a vision to get there. To work towards this, a combination of compulsory conditions for all farmers in the European Union (EU), with an increased focus on voluntary environmental schemes (such as agroenvironment-climate measures or future eco-schemes) will help maintain a common market and create the incentives for change to deliver in this domain.

As highlighted in his mission statement by Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission; “[Farms] remain part of the fabric of our rural communities and a provider of safe, nutritious and affordable food for Europeans. Our agricultural sector is both central to achieving our climate-neutrality commitments and also sharply exposed to the effects of climate change. We must support it on both fronts to ensure that it stays competitive.” (2)

The Commissioner’s further responsibilities include:

• Supporting a swift conclusion to negotiations on post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy with a major focus on food security, climate, and biodiversity.
• Working with Member States on Strategic Plans, balancing EU-wide objectives with national priorities.
• Developing a long-term vision for rural areas, supporting family and medium-sized farms.
• Supporting young farmers and ensuring a fair income.
• Contributing to the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy for sustainable, healthy and high-quality food.
• Developing an action plan for organic farming in the EU.
• Avoiding intensive farming and reducing the use of pesticides, fertilisers and chemicals as part of a zero-pollution ambition.
• Exploring ways to strengthen the system of geographical indications.
• Improving animal welfare standards.
• Conducting an impact assessment of trade deals on agriculture.

It goes without saying that changes in climate, digital technologies and geopolitics are already having a profound effect on the lives of Europeans, both small and large scale. We are witnessing major shifts all the way from global power structures to local politics. While these transformations may be different in nature, the commissioner places the utmost importance on showing the same ambition and determination in the EU’s response.

Furthermore, Europe’s farmers are making an important contribution to our society in terms of food production, provision of climate and environmental services and as part of wider rural areas, whose communities play a fundamental role for our European socio-economic fabric and cultural diversity. This is why Wojciechowski will work closely alongside European farmers to discuss how to preserve this through the future generations, and how to protect and stabilise these vulnerable businesses during our on-going globalisation. “Today’s climate and environmental challenges require a transformation in our agricultural system.” (3)

He goes on to explain:

“We need a policy that supports viable farm income and resilience across the territories and that improves our competitiveness and transforms agriculture into an attractive activity for young people. However, we can only achieve this if we make our policy more effective and put in place a fairer system of support that guarantees that public resources go where they are most needed. I support mandatory rules at EU level to redistribute direct support and make it degressive to the benefit of smaller family farms. Moreover, our young farmers also need more targeted support to cope with the barriers they face to enter the sector (such as access to land, credit, and knowledge).” (4)

“What we do now will determine what kind of world our children live in and will define Europe’s place in the world.”(5)




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