A greener, more local Europe?
The FFA audience responds during the Regional Live Events
Monday, Jun 22, 2020
During the FFA Regional Online Live event broadcast on June 15 (full videos available here), we asked the 500+ FFA audience of farmers, policy makers, scientists, business and many more about what they believe the policy priorities for Europe and the German Presidency should be as we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.
The lockdown itself has shown significant frailties in the European and international food systems, especially where it concerns the cross-border movement of farm workers and produce. During the lockdown, many of these systems experienced either significant delays or were completely blocked. As the results below show, this has both strengthened the need for cross-border trade security, but an even greater stated need for local food security. However, there is no doubt that the overarching concern of the FFA audience remains that the recovery is used to create urgency around Europe’s green agenda.
This urgency on the side of the public is seemingly matched by the European policy agenda, which now has a large number of policy items related to the food system and land management on its plat, including the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Biodiversity Strategy, finalizing the Common Agricultural Policy and passing an agreed-on European budget. However, as the polling below shows, the most important item for those attending the FFA Live Event was the Farm to Fork Strategy. Given that each Presidency has limited time and political capital to expend on different files, the primacy given to the package designed to not just adapt agriculture, but also the large food chain, is significant.
The focus on climate change and a green recovery is seen again in the 3rd question, where the audience focused on climate and soil measures as the most important for the EU recovery. While all these answer are interrelated and tackling one will have positive (side) effects on the others, it is clear that the climate emergency remains at the forefront of public concern, soil is now clearly moving up the policy agenda.
Clearly, the solution envisaged by a majority of the FFA Live Event audience is to create a new business model based on ecosystem services as part of the answer to the climate, soil, and biodiversity crises. However, moving such a model into the practical reality of farm life is as yet not an achievable reality, despite some very positive results from pilots and limited programs around Europe.
Taken together, we can see that the FFA audience has a disposition towards green solutions that help farmers and ecosystems alike, but also that it values the importance of the price signal, as was reflected in the discussion during the Live Event. Greater support from the government or the EU does not seem to be a priority, and neither do international trade ties in the face of greater support for more local and regional production.
While there are not enough results to claim definitive answers to these complex problems, there appears to be an ‘inward turn’ for European politics, one more focused on going green at home with a preference for local solutions. The coming months will show whether or not such desires are matched by the EU and the German Presidency as the recovery takes concrete shape. Whatever the outcome will be, however, it is clear that there is a stated desire in Europe for real changes to the operation of the food system – it is whether or not the political will is present to substantiate these changes that will need to be seen.