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Opportunities and risks of EU climate protection policy for agriculture

Berlin, 10 March 2020: European agriculture is not only the economic sector that is most directly affected by climate change, but can also make a tangible contribution to climate protection in the near future. This is emphasised by the Chairmen of the Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants (UFOP), Wolfgang Vogel, and of the French Oil and Protein Plants Association (FOP), Arnaud Rousseau, with reference to the proposals for the climate law.

The associations take note of the objectives of the EU Commission's "Green Deal" and the announcement that a comprehensive package of measures will be presented as early as the end of March. The commitment to climate neutrality by 2050 is a clear commitment to the challenges of climate policy and to the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Arable farming, with the expansion of crop rotation to include the flowering plants rapeseed and sunflower as well as grain legumes, supplies sustainably produced raw materials for the manufacture of high-quality edible oils and greenhouse gas-optimised fuels. In addition, GMO-free feed protein is provided for animal and human nutrition.

UFOP and FOP criticise the fact that there is always a debate about the use of agricultural raw materials in biofuels ("tank or plate"). Meanwhile, not only politicians but also the automotive industry hides behind this argument and refuses to consider biofuels from cultivated biomass any further.

The associations reject this mostly emotional discussion and refer to the more than sufficient supply situation of agricultural raw materials worldwide. The desolate price situation on the agricultural commodity markets for years and the resulting pressure on agricultural incomes is currently driving farmers throughout Europe onto the streets. Many farms do not have the necessary funds to invest in more efficient machinery and in digitalisation. At the same time, additional production constraints and restrictions are contributing to the relocation of agricultural production to third countries and accelerating structural change. According to UFOP and FOP, sustainable prospects for European agriculture and thus also for rural areas look different.

The two oilseed associations therefore demand that the Green Deal presented by the EU Commission creates opportunities and perspectives. Therefore, a holistic approach is required, which concentrates above all on the optimisation of crop rotation systems with oilseeds and especially grain legumes as plants that bind atmospheric nitrogen. The performance of ecosystems can be measured by a number of parameters that result from site-adapted and extended crop rotation systems:

-       Production of greenhouse gas-optimized raw materials for food and biofuels;

-       reducing the use of mineral fertilizers, especially nitrogen fertilizers;

-       contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector;

-       avoiding soya and thus "land imports" from third countries, reducing land pressure and thus land use change;

-       Improving the protein supply from regional cultivation for animal and human nutrition are also in line with the protein strategy formulated by the EU;

-       improving biodiversity through crop diversity with flowering plants;

-       Recognition of crop rotation diversification as a "regional" effort for environmental and climate protection;

-       Result: improved public acceptance and appreciation.

With this approach, the producer associations welcome the EU Commission's initiative announced with the Green Deal for a deforestation-free procurement of imported animal feed. Therefore, oilseed and grain legume cultivation must be given preference in the European Union and must not be undermined by questionable imports. The stricter requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) for proof of sustainability with regard to the origin of raw materials and greenhouse gas efficiency for biofuels from cultivated biomass are also legally binding for raw material cultivation and deliveries from third countries. Thus the European biofuel policy has been and continues to be the pacemaker for internationally binding regulations on the sustainability of cultivated biomass, regardless of its end use.