ForumforAg Food Systems Podcast Summary

Food Systems Podcast 29

In discussion with Jean-Marc Chappuis Podcast summary

Thursday, Aug 19, 2021

A holistic approach to farming reform

Switzerland is planning a reform of its agricultural policy, based on a holistic food systems approach feeding into the country’s overall sustainable development. Hot topic areas include pesticide, nitrogen and phosphorus use reduction; the role of women on farms; and the need to maintain agriculture in the mountains. In our latest podcast, Jean-Marc Chappuis, Deputy Director of the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, gives us some insights and his expectations of the UN Food Systems Summit. For a taster, read our short summary below, or dive into the full 24-minute Food Systems Podcast for much more. 

What are some of the main goals of the new 5-year program?

The aim of the reform package for agricultural policy, Politique agricole à partir de 2022 (PA22+), is to reinforce the environmental services of agriculture and to improve social aspects, mainly the position of women on farms: to strengthen the three pillars of sustainable development.

The package was suspended by the Parliament, which requested a new report that should analyze potential enlargement of agricultural policy towards a more holistic food systems approach, among other questions to be answered. We are working on this report and it is expected to be finalized in summer 2022.

The Swiss government wants to create financial incentives for pesticide-free farming. How do you define that? Is it organic farming or completely chemistry free? And how have you structured those incentives?

Well, all chemistry is concerning. It is not only for organic production. The Parliament has adopted a new package on the reduction of the risks linked to the use of pesticides. I can give you the details: the risks posed by the use of pesticides to surface waters and semi-natural habitats, as well as the pollution of groundwater, to be reduced by 50% by 2027 compared to the average value for the years 2012-2015.

And the Parliament also decided to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses from agriculture. The Federal Council proposed to reduce nutrient losses by at least 20% by 2030, compared to the mean value for 2014-2016. The proposal would be discussed with the agriculture sector, NGOs and other organizations.

How will Switzerland pay for the new measures?

It is a national agricultural policy, financed from general federal revenues such as value added tax, direct federal tax and customs revenue, with some cantonal subsidies.

Switzerland has farms in difficult areas in higher altitudes: how do you support those types of farms?

The country’s decentralized population is one objective of the agricultural policy. The area used for agriculture is divided into a summering area, a mountain area and the valley. The mountain and valley areas are divided into zones and the subsidy varies across different zones. We have a subsidy, for example, paid to farmers who move their cows in summer to the highest altitude zones.

Looking internationally, the talks on a framework deal between the EU and Switzerland have collapsed, so how will agricultural trade relations continue?

There is a risk that trade will be affected if the 1999 Agricultural Agreement is not updated regularly. But Switzerland and the EU have a common interest in the markets functioning. The EU Commission is in the process of considering how the relationship between states and the EU will continue.

The UN Food Systems Summit is coming up. What are your expectations of the outcome and what is the Swiss Government bringing to the table?

It is very important to have a food systems approach and this is supported by Switzerland. We expect the UN to lay the ground for action-oriented work between now and 2030. Forming coalitions around specific issues seems a promising approach, provided they include the private sector and civil society. The actions have to be based on sound science.

We expect that stakeholders will be able to talk together. The transformation of food systems goes well beyond agriculture and it is very important to get all stakeholders, and consumers, on board.

If you could give one policy or practical idea to create a more sustainable food system, what would it be?

We had a very interesting and good experience with the dialogs we organized in preparation for the Summit. A lot of initiatives were proposed, concrete initiatives were presented, all aimed at improving the sustainability of food systems This is certainly something we would like to carry on.

If you have found this short summary interesting, there’s lots more to hear in the full 24-minute conversation. It is available now on iTunes, Podbean or Spotify or on this website.

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