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The green menu system: an idea worth considering

The recently published analysis of Groupe de Bruges (GDB) starts with demonstrating the challenges agriculture faces in the 21st century and points out that one of the biggest challenges will be to increase the production of sufficient, nutritious and high quality food for a growing world population while massively improving land use and management performance. In this context, the analysis criticises Commission proposals as they lack many important issues such as urgency, systems approach and integrated perspectives.

As to the lack of urgency, the analysis states that the Commission does not seem to realise that the European Union is in its biggest crisis ever and therefore does not provide any plans for acute natural/food security crisis. This argument is underpinned by that fact that there is neither prioritisation of objectives nor hierarchy of goals in the proposals. As to the lack of systems approach, it is well identified by GDB that income support in the current policy setting will not improve competitiveness of farmers as other factors like markets, services, information, capital and infrastructure as well as the position of farmers in the food supply chain seem to play a much more important role in this regard. The analysis also reveals that an integrated perspective is missing from the proposals regarding the common treatment of competitiveness and sustainability. GDB states that proposals

“reducing greening to existing cross-compliance measures and a very limited number of additional ‘greening’ components without clear ideas, objectives and incentives for farmers to continuously improve performance”.

On the whole, it is concluded that current EC proposals seem to maintain the existing status quo in times when a more radical reform would be needed.

Based on these criticisms, the GDB put several recommendations on table to improve the CAP proposals. The biggest novelty of the analysis is the development of the “greening menu approach”, offering flexibility and better targeting as well as incentives to farmers to improve their performance in sustainable food production and delivery of public goods. The idea would work on the basis of a system in operation in the U.K. since 2005, splitting greening payments up into several domains (water management, soil management, energy management, biodiversity management, etc.). For each domain farmers can achieve a maximum of 100 points by taking into consideration that a certain minimum level for each domain should also be reached. This baseline can gradually be set higher, giving farmers the opportunity to adjust their farming practices to be able to meet the new baselines. Furthermore, farmers can go beyond the baseline requirements for specific domains, thereby receiving a premium payment in line with the increase in performance points.  The systems would also allow premiums to be given to farmers applying measures over a longer period of time and to farmers who work together in territorial collectives. This might also be accompanied by research agendas and facilities to support farmers to develop better agro-ecological practices and performance.

Although the implementation of such a system requires further details, the idea is definitely worth considering.

This post was written by Attila Jambor.

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One Reply to “The green menu system: an idea worth considering”

  1. We support the “green menu” idea and believe “nutrient management” should be one of the “greening elements” reflected in the EU’s agricultural policy.

    Nutrient losses (nitrogen, phosphorus) to the environment create a heavy external cost for ecosystems, human health and the climate. The sustainable use of phosphorus, a critical limited natural resource, is also a growing concern. Sofar this has received little attention from policy makers.

    We therefore believe that “nutrient management” should be part of the “greening” of agriculture in the EU, a component of a menu in Pillar 1 and should be an objective for all farms in the EU as a vital first step to improve nutrient use efficiency.
    The use of nutrient management systems greatly improves visibility and accountability of the main nutrient flows on the farm and contribute to optimizing crop output, while reducing losses and saving money for the farmer. Nutrient management systems are therefore indispensable for the modern farmer.

    Willem Sloot

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