Monika Nebeská, Chairwoman of the Board, Agricultural Cooperative Všestary
Tuesday, Jun 07, 2022
Monika Nebeská, Chairwoman of the Board, Agricultural Cooperative Všestary, spoke during Session 1 at our recent Czech Regional event. We asked her for a summary of her speech particularly covering the question ‘Can we achieve the environmental targets with the new CAP and the National Strategic Plans?’
In my opinion, the objectives for strengthening the sustainability and greening of the European economy, including the agri-food sector, as defined in the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategyand reflected in the Common Agricultural Policy, are very ambitious.
It really makes me concerned about the impact these objectives will have on agricultural practice. Especially in an economic and political situation that is significantly different from the time these goals were adopted. It is alarming that there is no impact assessment for the strategies presented. I am afraid that there will be a fall in agricultural production, hence a fall in exports, and I then conclude that there will be a sharp drop in farmers’ incomes. As a result, all this will lead to a further dramatic rise in food prices.
It worries me that the Czech Republic’s ambitions in this area are also very high. We know that the European Commission has given Member States a great scope for subsidiarity, and the Czech Ministry of Agriculture has submitted a plan that is more ambitious than the objectives and requirements defined by the European Commission. In the new CAP, the Czech Republic is even the most ambitious in Europe in a number of parameters – for example, it plans to allocate 30% of the money for ecosystems to the first pillar. Furthermore, 23% of the budget for redistribution of payments – here we also rank first on a European scale. In neighbouring Germany, Poland and Slovakia, for example, they have a maximum of 10-12% for redistributive payments. In addition, the European Commission has decided to release a crisis reserve of €470 million to support agriculture in individual Member States in order to compensate for expensive inputs and the loss of export markets. The Commission has even allowed each Member State an increase of up to 200% on national top-up payments, and a number of our neighbours have already announced that they will use of this option. However, this is the Czech government, who is not planning to do so.
However, overly ambitious plans have an impact not only on Czech Farmers, but also on agriculture on a European scale. I find it ridiculous that Third Countries do not have to follow the rules. What about our European competitiveness? Aren’t we scoring an own goal? At a time when the European Commission is still calling for a reduction in dependence on oil and gas, on imports (including fertilisers, protein crops, etc.), at a time when, on the contrary, it is necessary to strengthen agri-food self-sufficiency, a very dangerous game is at stake. We do call and will call for maximum simplification of the whole system. And we will call for a system that is fair to all and realistic at the same time.
Another major challenge for European agriculture, for meeting climate goals and ensuring self-sufficiency is the war in Ukraine. The price of wheat has been rising, by more than 20% since the war beginning and by almost 75% compared to last year. Another limited export commodity is fertilisers, which, in addition to Russia, are also produced in large quantities by Belarus. Their price has jumped by around three times year-on-year. Although the Czech Republic is one of the smaller “fertilisers” within the EU, with about 120 kilograms of fertiliser per hectare (of which about 75% is nitrogen fertiliser), compared to about 160 kg in Europe – this price rise means a big financial blow for farmers. Given the ever-increasing fuel prices, rising fertiliser prices may be just the imaginary nail in the coffin of European farmers.
Undoubtedly, such ambitious goals require ambitious funding.However, it is a pure reality that within the entire European Union, the Czech Republic’s budget funds are cut the most. This is most pronounced in Pillar II of the CAP. Why does the level of support differ? Excessively high demands are placed on us for significantly less money. In practice, this means that the basic payment will be €75, now it’s €230… I don’t want to downplay the importance of environmental protection, the Commission’s focus on strengthening the sustainability of the sector is certainly a sensible direction, but I don’t want it to be us – farmers – who will be burdened by all the restrictions that are coming…
Changes must go hand in hand with farmers and not the other way around. We need to realise what we farmers have already achieved, what initiatives we have taken, and we cannot continue to be merely punished. We must work together, not against each other, to achieve a sustainable future together. Without proper funding, without proper help, we will not be able to do it.
I believe that the Czech government is listening to us and will take into account the views of all farmers, whose role in the national economy and environmental protection is unquestionable. And while we may have different perspectives on the issue, it is clear that all of us who work with the land strive for the same thing: food self-sufficiency and thus ultimately national food security and, of course, care for the environment.
The attitudes of the Czech government will be particularly important in the view of the forthcoming Czech Presidency and the related influence on European decision-making. At that time, for example, the revision of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive will be discussed. According to the current proposal, the consumption of pesticides across Europe is to be halved by 2030. Can Czech farmers cope with this restriction? Or will the Czech Republic have to import more food from other countries? Then there is the proposal for a revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive, which was presented by the European Commission at the beginning of April. Industrial emissions include beef cattle, poultry and pig emissions for all farms with more than 150 large livestock units. If the EC’s proposal passes, the directive will have its impact not on 20 000 farms in the EU, as it is today, but on 160 000 farms in the European Union.
t – My favourite philosopher and geologist RNDr. Václav Cílek says that soil and food are even more wealth and security than we have thought for at least fifty years. I wish people realized that.
This text reflects the speech of Mrs. Monika Nebeská at the Prague Regional ForumforAg Conference on May 18, 2022. On May 25, 2022, the Government of the Czech Republic approved the submitted version of the strategic plan. Thus, the amount of redistributive payments that farmers receive on the first 150 hectares of land will remain at 23% of the total amount for direct payments.