More independent advice needed to break farmers’ dependency on pesticides

Agriculture stakeholders asked for more independent consulting and training for farmers, which they say is needed to help reduce pesticide use and break the influence of ‘big industry’ cooperatives that sell products to farmers. 

The contentious sustainable use of pesticides regulation (SUR), tabled by the European Commission in June 2022, aims to slash both the use and the risk of pesticides and a half across the EU by 2030.

ALSO READ:  How To Make Money Daily Using Your Mobile Phone Or Computer

For farming stakeholders, a critical missing piece of the puzzle is the need for independent consulting and advice for farmers, pointing out that, as things currently stand, much of the advice available comes directly from those producing pesticides.

“We must cut [that link] that if we want to reduce [pesticides] and if we want to bring some advice to help the farmer,” French lawmaker Michele Rivasi told a recent event organised by EURACTIV.

For the Green MEP, the current advisory system does not offer producers enough options.

“In French, we say a cooperative, and in a cooperative, they sell seeds, they sell pesticides and so on, and the farmer cannot have another way to follow than what the cooperative has sent to them,” 

Likewise, Diana Lenzi, president of the European Council of young farmers (CEJA), also stressed the need for independent advice, noting that those who train farmers and tell them which products to use are the same ones who sell them the products.

“This creates a conflict of interest in which we can agree that probably it is not going to be the methodology that is going to give us the best optimal solution,” she said.

Training independent bodies and giving farmers the knowledge on ‘what’ they are using and ‘how’ they are using it is a key aspect for Lenzi.

Meanwhile, Martin Dermine, executive director at campaign group Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN), also stressed the need for a “more ambitious and more obligation for the member states to have really high-level farm advisory services” at the national and regional levels.

This can help tailor advice to the regional climatic conditions, he added.

But for the Executive Director at the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association, Jennifer Lewis, in addition to independent consultancy, “we have to recognise that the manufacturers are often the people who know their product best.”

“It is a bit of a double-edged sword,” she said, adding that if you ‘decouple’ advice and supply “, you may not be allowing that real product knowledge to be accessible to the farmer.”

Lewis also highlighted the importance of engaging with ‘farmer to farmer’ networks, in which farmers learn by “looking over their hedge.”

Show me the money

However, PAN’s Dermine pointed out that expanding the kind of on-offer for farmers’ advice comes with a price tag.

“Clearly, there’s a high need to invest money in providing independent, high-quality, independent advice to support and reassure farmers in the transition,” he said, calling this one of the “most challenging parts” of the SUR proposal.

As things currently stand, the Commission has envisaged that support for farmers to reduce pesticide use should come from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

However, stakeholders warned the money available under the CAP would be insufficient to support this transition.

“Using funds from the CAP means stretching on budget in which farmers are already struggling. And in that has already been reshaped quite a bit to improve farmers’ sustainability,” CEJA’s Lenzi pointed out.

For the Green’s Rivasi, one of the solutions is the so-called pesticide tax, proposed in February by her colleague Austrian Green MEP Sarah Wiener.

“I think it’s good to propose a tax and also to push each member state to take from the CAP,” she said.

This tax proposes that EU countries introduce risk-based taxation on plant protection products by contributions of retailers or penalty payments, which would then feed into a state fund to aid farmers who have suffered losses.

However, as tax is a national competence, the feasibility of such a proposal has been repeatedly questioned by those on the right of the Parliament.

“This is a national topic, and the SUR is not the right place to have something like that,” centre-right MEP Alexander Bernhuber said at a press briefing in March, adding that he has “not heard positive comments from member states” about the idea.

This article follows the EURACTIV-organised policy debate “The ‘Sustainable Use of Pesticide Regulation’ – Navigating the path to a greener EU” supported by DG AGRI.

[Edited by Natasha Foote/Alice Taylor]

More on the same topic…


Spread the love

Similar Posts