The EU’s new Commissioner for Agriculture has outlined his key priorities for the forthcoming Commission, highlighting organic farming as a primary concern.
Speaking at the EU’s Agricultural Outlook conference this week, Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski underlined the need to provide increased support for organic agriculture processes, in particular by reducing excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. The Commissioner noted that more than 12 million hectares of EU farmland is used for organic agrifood production, but that proportions of both organic production and consumption vary widely between Member States; and that consumers are frequently deterred by the higher cost of organic products and a lack of convenient access.
The EU’s ‘Agricultural outlook for markets and income’ report, which aims to project developments in the agriculture sector between 2019 and 2030, says: ‘People in the EU have increasingly pressing and at times conflicting expectations towards food. These expectations extend beyond food affordability to issues such as health, origin, convenience, environment, climate change and animal welfare…[a]lternative production and marketing systems, such as local, organic, GM-free or other types of certified production will increase over the outlook period.’
Commissioner Wojciechowski went on to draw attention to the plight of young farmers, who he said do not receive sufficient technical or economic support to remain in the agriculture industry. The most common hindrance to young people attempting to join the farming profession is a lack of access to affordable land, with more than 50% of farmland throughout the EU owned by farmers aged 56 or older – around 30% is owned by farmers over the age of 65. Farmers under 35, by comparison, collectively own just 6% of European farming land.
The Agricultural Outlook conference held in Brussels this week saw representatives of EU institutions and Member State governments, agriculture industry stakeholders, professionals, academics and members of civil society come together to explore the future of the EU’s agriculture sector.