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A number of new studies have been published in recent weeks, analysing the impact of the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity targets and have found alarming negative consequences for EU food producers, consumers and the future of EU agricultural production.

Numerous ambitious EU targets, including a push towards 25% organic production, a reduction in pesticide use, nutrient losses and antibiotic use by 50% by 2030, were unveiled in May 2020 within the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.

These strategies are roadmaps, containing a number of new legislative and non-legislative proposals. However, the main tool the European Commission hope to utilise to reach these targets is the reformed CAP.

Despite entailing sweeping changes for the agri-food sector, the European Commission did not conduct a culminative analysis on the proposed targets and actions to assess their economic, social and environmental impact, which is only now beginning to be demonstrated through the publication of a number of new studies from various research institutes from across Europe.

The European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) released a technical report which is based on the modelling of just four targets from the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies and without consideration of the stricter climate and environmental conditions of the new CAP.

Ominously, the JRC is predicting a -5% to -15% decline in EU agricultural production and a +10% increase in production costs. Additionally, the report predicts that 50% of GHG emissions reductions from agriculture will be linked with carbon leakage, with production moved to countries outside the EU. This is stark.

Furthermore, the German Kiel Institute, has also released its own analysis, which similarly concludes that the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies will lead to a significant decline in production and higher prices in the EU.

It specifically highlights the strong negative impact from forced reductions in nitrogen usage. It foresees reductions in output of -20% for beef and -6.3% for dairy, with cereals down -21.4%. The study also forecasts that should all targets and actions be implemented, the EU would move from being a net exporter of cereals and beef to being a net importer, while net dairy exports would be cut from 5.9mt to 4.9mt. Again, it is predicted that the projected emissions savings that would occur through a decrease in EU agricultural production would be entirely offset by an increase in production outside the EU, and the resultant land use change within the EU.

The results of these studies clearly highlight the need for a full comprehensive impact assessment to be carried out by the European Commission, on the cumulative impact of the various targets and actions for EU producers and the future sustainability of EU agricultural production and the need to rethink this approach. Particularly this highlights the failure of the EU to recognise the value of production systems other than organic, which can better incorporate efficiency with sustainability, including pasture-based farming. These studies are also important within regard to the national discussion on Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, which has incorporated these targets and must now be reviewed to ensure that the proposed interventions do not contradict the other objectives of the CAP; ensuring a fair income for farmers, affordable prices for consumers and supporting sustainable EU production.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive