The Common Agricultural Policy must encourage farming to become greener in order to guarantee sustainable food supplies, European farm leaders have agreed.
At an EU farm council meeting in Brussels on Monday, agriculture ministers and officials said a “greening” element of the CAP was vital to ensure natural resources were properly managed.
But they were unable to agree on how a mandatory environmental element should be introduced to direct support payments (Pillar 1).
German farm minister Ilse Aigner said farmers needed to be incentivised to protect the environment, while France’s agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire said any greening of the CAP needed to work alongside current cross-compliance rules.
While France supported CAP greening, it must not add to the administrative burden on farmers, he added.
Junior DEFRA minister Jim Paice said the UK would support stronger rural development funding (Pillar 2) to encourage farmers to become greener.
Pillar 2 was more flexible and could be adapted to suit farmers in different regions, he said.
Speaking after the meeting, council chairman Sandor Fazekas said careful management of resources had to be an essential element of the CAP, which is set to be reformed in 2013.
Farming needed to find innovative methods of production to guarantee safe and healthy food supplies and needed to be “part of the solution and not part of the problem” of climate change, he added.
European farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos praised member states for embracing plans to manage natural resources more effectively.
Food security was “inextricable linked” to environmental management and “greening” pillar one would encourage a large number of farmers to find ways to enhanvce the environment, he added.
A further round of talks on the CAP are set to take place next month, with final conclusions expected in March.
Proposals for the future of the policy are expected to be published in the autumn.