Common Agricultural Policy: a destructive status quo

Unfortunately on Tuesday, 23rd November, the majority of MEPs in the European Parliament gave in to the agro-industrial lobby, and decided to maintain the destructive status quo by voting in favour of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2023-2027.

This was another missed opportunity to help solve the climate and environment emergency, brought on by intensive agriculture and multinational food processing companies and retailers at the expense of the small farmer producing zero-kilometre, fresh and better produce.

The ‘new’ CAP is also contrary to the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy and the lofty aims of the Green Deal. The meagre efforts to protect the environment, climate and biodiversity are basically purely symbolic.

Some might ask why all this emphasis by the Greens, and our colleagues in the Green Group in the European Parliament on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy? The CAP accounts for roughly one third of the European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021 to 2027, and so this spending impinges on areas which affect our quality of life: The accessibility, type and quality of food on the market; who gets the most help to get their products to market; land use and environmental protection; the use of fossil fuels; and pollution from pesticides and fertilizers.

The ‘new’ CAP keeps favouring food processing multinationals flooding markets with low quality, overprocessed ‘food’. Small Maltese farmers are at a huge disadvantage. What’s more, only 3% of the CAP is reserved for helping young farmers. Green MEPs are some of the few fighting for real farmers rather than industrialists posing as farmers.

A CAP based on green principles would use subsidies to support small farmers to produce ecological food. It would reward farmers who work in harmony and depend on their land for their livelihood. Those who adopt practices which are in tune with nature rather than reward intensive destructive industrial farming. It would help finance small farmers and new farmers, rather than throw money at multinational agri-business, and massive land owners.

Incidentally, we have not heard from Government how it plans to protect arable land and ensure that it remains farmed rather than having farmers thrown out by landowners. A green agricultural policy would invest in local farmers, strengthening ‘zero-kilometre’ produce supply chains.

An opportunity has been lost at EU level. Greens will continue the fight against a farming policy that helps industrial scale animal agriculture, against an agricultural policy that incentivises the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, destroying nature, biodiversity, soil and ground water.

We want a policy which puts small-scale farmers and sustainable family farms at its centre. Our quality of life, our fresh nutritious food supply and our environment, health and climate are still waiting for a true, real green agricultural policy.

Ralph Cassar
ADPD Secretary General
Published in The Malta Independent – Tuesday 7 December 2021