EU Commission pushes through new regulations for brownfield sites

The minimum target is now four percent
EU Commission pushes through new regulations for brownfield sites

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Agricultural land in the EU should be left fallow so that soil can recover. They do not produce any yields during this time, which bothers farmers. They therefore want to keep the brownfield areas as small as possible. The EU Commission is now listening to them. But Germany wants to ignore that.

The EU Commission is pushing through concessions for farmers despite disagreement among member states. Brussels single-handedly decided on an exemption from regulations for a minimum proportion of fallow land on arable land, as the EU Official Journal shows. The regulation is to be replaced by a minimum requirement for the cultivation of catch crops. The new target is lower than required by member states such as Germany.

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) requires farmers to leave four percent of their agricultural land fallow. This is intended to create areas for wild species. The Commission suspended the regulation as a result of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, originally to secure food supplies.

The exception is now to be extended until the end of the year, but Brussels is introducing a replacement requirement: farmers meet the requirement if they use “a minimum share of four percent of their cultivated areas for non-productive areas and characteristics,” the publication said. In addition to fallow land, this also includes the cultivation of nitrogen-fixing plants such as lentils, peas and beans or catch crops.

Brussels had originally proposed a minimum share of seven percent of arable land for nitrogen-fixing plants, which Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir welcomed. However, by reducing it to four percent, the commission was overshooting its target, Özdemir criticized last week when the new plans were announced.

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Germany therefore abstained from a first vote on Friday. Other EU countries also abstained, but a majority was not achieved. However, under current EU law, the Commission is not dependent on the consent of the Member States for the decision. She can implement the plans single-handedly.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke spoke of a “hasty and immature decision”. The requirement must protect biodiversity, on which agricultural productivity depends in the long term, explained Lemke. She will work to ensure that the exception is not implemented in this form in Germany.

The Federal Government is putting the brakes on in Brussels, criticized the chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament, Norbert Lins. The EU Commission’s decision is a “very good signal for agriculture”. Lins called for the exceptions to be extended beyond 2024.

In several European countries, farmers have been taking to the streets for weeks against their governments’ agricultural policies and guidelines from Brussels. The French government then offered the farmers, among other things, exemptions from EU environmental regulations.

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