Month of March wrap-up session
Summary of session
Sunday, Apr 17, 2022
Janez Potočnik, Chair ForumforAg 2022 and Chairman RISE, opened the final session of the Forum’s month-long series of events including the Annual Conference and various webinars to debate the future of food systems. He welcomed the fact all speakers had embraced the need for reform. To achieve that transformation, the whole food chain must be involved, not just farmers, and consumption, as well as production, must change, with both encouraged by proper market incentives. Mr Potočnik agreed on the need to develop short-term strategies to address global food security concerns sparked by the war in Ukraine, but not at the cost of a long-term strategy. “Unless we take urgent action now, our resilience to buttress inevitable future shocks will diminish and the effects will be worse and more widespread,” he warned.
Maciej Golubiewski, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, explained how the Commission is helping Ukrainian agriculture by facilitating land routes for its exports and providing diesel for its farmers. He was confident the EU would continue on the transformation path, while targeting short-term measures to help producers. He stressed that the EU was “ready to help those parts of the world that are really looking with fear at the possible consequences” of the war in Ukraine.
In a special interview, Robert Bonnie, United States Under Secretary of Agriculture, shared details of the administration’s climate smart commodities programme to boost livestock and grain production, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon. He emphasised the measurement, monitoring and verification features in the programme. “We are in essence asking the US taxpayer to come help our farmers, ranchers, forest owners put these practices in place,” he said, adding: “Our best argument is to have data and to demonstrate that this can actually work.”
Following on from the launch last November of the transatlantic platform for collaboration on agriculture, Under Secretary Bonnie described as “critically important” the exchange of information between EU and US scientists and farmers. “We are all in this together. I think there is a lot to learn.”
During an online discussion, Galina Peycheva-Miteva, a Bulgarian farmer successfully practising regenerative agriculture, pointed to the need for role models. “Farmers need practical evidence that the nature-positive approach will work economically before they try it on a large scale.” With agriculture being increasingly considered in the context of climate change, unlike ten years ago, she was optimistic about the future. However, she urged decision-makers “to help farmers bear the costs associated with transitioning to sustainable farming”.
Marie Brueser, Entrepreneurship Leader at Thought For Food, explained her organisation helps start-ups throughout the food system. While finance is essential, the experience of large companies and their support for new ideas is also needed. She too was optimistic about the way ahead. “We have the people, the capital, the technologies, the knowledge. All of that combined creates a really good set-up and really good solutions that will create what we need.” But the real question is: “Will be courageous enough to drive those forward?”
Jon Parr, President of Syngenta Crop Protection, and Thierry de l’Escaille, Secretary General, European Landowners’ Organization, co-founders of the Forum almost 15 years ago, reflected on the success it has had in creating a space for an open and constructive exchange on agriculture and the environment – once seen as mutually exclusive. Both pointed to its ability to bring together prominent practitioners from different disciplines.
Jon underlined the key contribution science can make, the need to “make sure we continue to talk about nurturing innovation to solve the equations that are currently not working for us” and the importance of discussion being followed by action.
Thierry noted how the Forum tries to build a bridge between the covid, climate and conflict crises to develop better understanding, and solutions, of their impact on society and food systems. This year’s Forum had aimed to give hope to farmers to ensure they “can find a way, not only to be accepted by society, to be useful to society, but also to be sufficiently profitable in their businesses”.
Presentation of the prestigious Land and Soil Management Award, which brought the ForumforAg 2022’s month-long events to a close.
The Land and Soil Management Award was launched in 2008 by the European Landowners’ Organization, under the auspices of the European Commission (DG Environment and the Joint Research Centre) and in association with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) of Vienna, Syngenta, as well as the Centre for Soil and Environmental Sciences of the Ljubljana University. Since then, the award jury has selected outstanding achievements throughout the EU in the field of sustainable soil and land management.
Prof Martin Gerzabek, Institute of Soil Research, Vienna, as president of the jury, announced that, from a field of 12, the Geographical Institute Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest was this year’s winner for its long-term agricultural trials. “The jury was especially impressed by the long duration of the experiments of 19 years, which is not easy to achieve for a research institute,” he said.
Andrea Vettori, Member of Cabinet of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, explained that 60-70% of soil ecosystems in Europe are downgrading. “This is why many years ago, the European Commission, DG Environment, decided to partner with Syngenta and the European Landowners Organization to create the award.
He announced diplomas of recognition to two further projects: French farm Lo Biais al Maset, Albi, which has been applying agri-ecological measures for almost two decades and Gut&Bösel Keyline agroforestry, Germany, a regenerative organic farm that minimises soil erosion while enhancing biodiversity and careful use of water.