European and German agricultural policy has focussed too much, in recent years, on subsidising farms which aim to establish their competitive advantage through cost leadership. To do so, they rely on rationalisation and intensification. 85 per cent of all direct aid for agriculture goes to supporting just 20 per cent of farms. This agricultural support policy ignores other important criteria such as the number of socially insured jobs that an enterprise creates. Negative impacts on the environment, nature and the climate are also accepted as the price that has to be paid.
The Green agricultural turnaround marked a paradigm shift in agricultural policy. Alliance 90/The Greens have thus improved the conditions for the promotion of sustainable agriculture through farm and SME structures. This sustainable agriculture protects water resources, species diversity and soil quality, and adds value to rural regions. We plan to continue this policy course.
Putting consumers first
Germany's food trade has stopped selling eggs from cage systems because customers no longer buy them. More than 70 per cent of European consumers do not want genetically engineered food on their plates. Consumers are also concerned about pesticide residues and the use of banned substances. Because manufacturers and politicians have not heeded these concerns, the food industry is responding with standards of its own. Surging demand for organic foods has produced double-digit growth in this sector for many years and this trend is continuing despite the current economic crisis.
The trend confirms our Green position: only an agricultural sector which puts consumers' needs and wishes first can be successful over the long term, and fair prices for farmers can only be achieved if consumers are on board.
Recognising organic farming as the solution
The services provided by organic farming for the environment, nature conservation and animal welfare have long been recognised. This system of farming is also better for the climate. In addition, it offers reliable strategies for achieving global food security – for in order to produce enough food for everyone, better use must be made of the potential of small-scale farmers worldwide. Organic cultivation methods are ideally suited for this purpose. In the southern hemisphere in particular, organic farming produces much higher yields than conventional systems, as international studies show.
Organic farming should no longer be dismissed as a niche market for eco-conscious consumers. This system of farming makes most efficient use of natural resources and is therefore the right way forward. We Greens intend to make it the guiding vision of agricultural policy. We want to utilise and further develop its potential through appropriate support, for example in the research sector.
Reforming Europe's common agricultural policy
A common agricultural policy for Europe will continue to be indispensable in future. The necessary impetus for climate change mitigation, species conservation, sustainable food production and rural development can only be generated through cooperation, not competition.
If it is to perform this task effectively, agricultural policy must exert a genuine social and ecological steering effect. That means deploying all the available policy instruments as well as regulatory law and effective market rules, e.g. for milk production. We Greens want the provision of public funding to be coupled, in future, to the delivery of services that benefit society. This means rewarding farms that are committed to protecting the climate, the environment, nature and animals and also create jobs.