So speaking of farm subsidies I learned a very interesting fact about agricultural subsidies in the European Union (EU). They are trending toward making their subsidies based on the farmer’s sustainable practices. Farms are given money for keeping hedgerows to increase populations of natural pollinators and other beneficial insects, increase the biodiversity, and just generally improve the health of the land.
To quote the Europa website: “Where necessary, the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) supplements farm income to ensure that farmers make a decent living. However, assistance is linked to compliance with broader objectives in the areas of farm hygiene and food safety, animal health and welfare, preservation of traditional rural landscapes, as well as bird and wildlife conservation.”
They have even addressed the problem of biofuel production. “EU research budgets further support innovation in agriculture by increasing productivity while making farming more environmentally friendly. Projects have included research into how agricultural crops can be used to produce energy without detracting from the primary purpose of producing food and animal feed, e.g. by using by-products and waste products.”
Not everyone is happy about this approach. In fact it was this Deutsche Welle report that I heard and prompted me to write this post. But the EU administrators have a great idea here and we can hope they stick to their plan and succeed in making this work.
“Europe now faces a crucial choice for an entire generation,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos back in November 2010. “Between agriculture spread throughout Europe or agriculture marginalized in society and the economy. We are talking about economic choices, but also a choice as to our lifestyle, a choice for diversity, for authenticity, quality, for the essential values of the European civilization.”
As usual the Europeans are light years ahead of us in environmental policy and I think it is wonderful that that forward thinking is now impacting their agricultural policy. Maybe as the debate continues in DC they will take a minute and ponder US farm subsidy structure. We can only hope they will take a cue from the EU and maybe make a leap into policy that actually makes sense.