The EU’s position in global agri-food trade

We have become used to the mantra that the EU is both the world’s largest agri-food exporter but also its largest agri-food importer. But this was before Brexit and the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU. The UK is a large net importer, so its departure implies (a) that the EU27 now becomes a larger exporter because exports to the UK are added to the extra-EU exports of the EU28, and (b) a smaller importer, because UK imports from the rest of the world no longer count as part of EU27 imports.

The two charts below show the revised situation after Brexit.… Read the rest

Making the transition from income support to a sustainable agriculture in the CAP

The CAP in recent decades has been largely an income support policy, particularly since the decoupling of direct payments after 2005. These CAP budget transfers together with national budget support either in the form of co-financing or as stand-alone payments account for over half of net farm income (for family farms, this is equivalent to family farm income). For specific enterprises and in individual countries, the contribution to farm income can be even higher.

In the first part of this post, I present the most recent data on the dependence of EU farm income on public transfers (see this post for data up to 2018 and a description of the various indicators that can be used to measure the dependence of farm income on public support).… Read the rest

What is the size of the mitigation potential in EU agriculture by 2030?

In my previous post, I discussed the challenges of reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture and identified some of the strategies that are available or under development to allow farmers to reduce these emissions. But by how much would these strategies reduce projected emissions? What is the potential magnitude of the emissions reduction we should expect from agriculture in the coming decade? As in the previous post, I deliberately exclude a discussion of the potential to offset these emissions through land management and land use change although, as we will see, some insights into the potential to reduce emissions in the LULUCF sector will be covered in this post.… Read the rest

Mitigating agricultural emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (almost entirely non-CO2 emissions as defined in IPCC Sector 3) fell slightly in the EU-27 in 2018 but are still above their lowest level in 2012. Net emissions from cropland and grassland reported in the LULUCF sector also appear to have stabilised after some years of decline (EEA GHG Data Viewer). Further, projections of agricultural emissions by Member States, as I reported in this post, indicate that no significant reduction in emissions from agriculture is projected in the period up to 2030 even with additional measures in place.

Agricultural non-CO2 emissions are driven mainly by livestock numbers (particularly ruminants such as cattle and sheep) and nitrogen (N) fertiliser use.… Read the rest

EU agricultural emissions trends in comparative perspective

The EU sees itself as a global leader in climate action. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was agreed in 1992. Since then, the EU has had quantitative emissions reduction targets for the period 2008-2012 under the Kyoto Protocol (a reduction of 8% compared to 1990 levels) and for the period 2013-2020 (under both the Kyoto Protocol and the 20-20-20 by 2020 Climate and Energy Package) which committed to a reduction of 20% in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 relative to 1990.

How have agricultural emissions trended during this period in the EU compared to other Annex 1 parties (developed countries) to the UNFCCC?… Read the rest

Measuring food system emissions

A paper just published in Nature Food by researchers from the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) and FAO has for the first time provided a consistent database of food system greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally and for every country with yearly frequency for the period 1990-2015. The authors justifiably claim that it represents a milestone in our understanding of how the global food system has developed. This post looks at some of the main messages provided by the paper.

It is first important to understand what the data are measuring. Although they cover food system emissions, these data are not consumption-based food system emission estimates or footprints.… Read the rest

Prospects for progress on the WTO agricultural agenda

The WTO General Council recently decided that the next WTO Ministerial Council meeting would be held in November this year in Geneva, rather than in June in Kazakhstan as had been planned. Although normally WTO Ministerial Conferences are held every two years, MC12, as it is called, will be the first Ministerial Cfonference since MC11 in Buenos Aires in December 2017.

That Conference was notable for its failure, for the first time, to agree a ministerial declaration affirming the continued importance of the WTO to the global trading system.  Specifically, on agriculture, there were no agreed outcomes and no agreed work programme for the future.… Read the rest

Payments for the environment – new turmoil around an old issue

We are pleased to welcome this guest post by Dr. Norbert Röder of the Thünen Institute Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries.

A presentation of the Commission in the Council Committee on Horizontal Questions in November 2020 caused some turmoil among some Member States and NGOs regarding the potential role of particular eco-schemes in the new CAP. What was the turmoil about? The Commission emphasized that, in its understanding, eco-schemes according to the draft Strategic Plan Regulation (SPR) art. 28 (6) a (no need to justify the payments on an income foregone / costs incurred basis) can be granted if and only if this payment is not privileging any type of land use and / or must not be linked to any form of production.… Read the rest

Improving governance of the future CAP

The proposed CAP legislation launched in 2018 made two important innovations in the governance of the CAP. First, it gave much greater flexibility to Member States in the way CAP interventions and CAP rules could be defined in individual countries. Second, it proposed to change the monitoring of Member State actions and the use made of the EU CAP budget from detailed compliance with very specific rules set out in legislation to a more performance-based approach.

The Commission’s motivation was clear. It expected that giving greater flexibility to Member States to design their own CAP interventions and rules would ensure better value for money because the interventions would be more effective.… Read the rest

Farm and non-farm income comparisons

One of the objectives for EU agricultural  policy set out in the Treaty of Rome (now the Lisbon Treaty) is to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture.  In its Communication The Future of Food and Farming in November 2017 that launched the public consultation phase of the current CAP reform, the Commission included a graph comparing average farmer income with average gross wages and salaries in the total economy to make the point that farmers’ income is still lagging behind salaries in the whole economy.… Read the rest