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AGRIFISH: agriculture depends on a healthy nature. It is important to strike a balance between its protection and food security

Nov 21, 2022

A New EU Forest Strategy for 2030, the Regulation on nature restoration or the availability of affordable fertilisers were discussed by EU Agriculture Ministers at the Council in Brussels today. Ministers discussed the conditions for putting the forest strategy into practice. The European Commission (EC) has proposed to address problems on the fertiliser market, for example through the use of a temporary crisis framework for public support or a crisis reserve. It has also pledged to set up a system to monitor market developments and fertiliser prices across the EU. The objectives for nature restoration fall under the environment, but also have important implications for agriculture, forestry and aquatic ecosystems. The meeting was chaired by the Czech Agriculture Minister Zdeněk Nekula (KDU-ČSL).

"It goes without saying that we must take care of nature, that farming and industry have a great influence on its shape. It is therefore necessary to work on the restoration and improvement of damaged ecosystems. However, we must find a way to be able to maintain agricultural production and thus food sufficiency," said Agriculture Minister Zdeněk Nekula.

The draft Regulation on nature restoration is a key part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. The aim is to restore nature in the long term, while at the same time restoring at least 20% of damaged EU ecosystems by 2030. That is why the EC has also proposed specific targets for agricultural, marine and forest ecosystems. These include increasing the stock of organic matter in soils or increasing biodiversity. Protecting pollinators is also important. Many of the conditions are already being met by farmers and many are also included in the new Strategic Plan for the Common Agricultural Policy. On forestry, the EC proposes six indicators to monitor the recovery of this ecosystem. The proposed indicators include, among others, the amount of standing and dead wood left standing, the proportion of forests with an uneven age structure and the mapping of forest birds. Ministers agreed on the need to strike a balance between protecting ecosystems and ensuring food security and economic activity in the regions concerned. Adequate funding is also needed to ensure that all the ambitious objectives are met.

In the discussion on fertilisers, ministers focused in particular on the communication on fertiliser availability presented by the European Commission at the meeting. "Fertilisers play an important role in food security. Although food production does not depend on fertilisers alone, a lack of fertilisers can have an impact on agricultural yields. I am therefore pleased that the European Commission is seeking solutions to mitigate the price crisis and to ensure that Europe strengthens its self-sufficiency in fertiliser production," said Minister Nekula.

The EU has significant production potential but is dependent on natural gas imports for fertiliser production. Solutions must continue to be developed to ensure there is enough gas in Europe. In addition, the EC said the temporary crisis framework, which allows for state aid, could be used. Member States have called on the Commission to consider using funds from the European Agricultural Reserve.  The Commission is also proposing to adjust the CAP contributions in the form of strategic plans to take account of the current situation, for example through even more efficient use of fertilisers. Emphasis was placed on further reducing dependence on imports of key raw materials, strengthening the EU's strategic autonomy and promoting and developing alternative sources of nutrients.

Forests and their role are a topic that has been actively addressed during the Czech Presidency. Last year, the EC adopted a new forest strategy for 2030, which aims to adapt Europe's forests to climate change, worsening pests and forest fires, while contributing to the development of a low-carbon economy and bio-economy. The Council invited the Commission to report annually on the status of its implementation. A number of Member States called for a stronger role for the Standing Forestry Committee in the implementation of the Strategy and expressed their readiness to contribute to the implementation of the Strategy's objectives from the outset.  This includes new legislation on forest monitoring and strategic forest plans. In September this year, the Czech Presidency organised a seminar on this topic, attended by 70 experts from 20 countries, the European Commission and major international organisations, which greatly contributed to the current debate.

Ministers also discussed, for example, options for the transition to non-fossil energy sources in fisheries and aquaculture, the more efficient use of seaweed biomass in the EU and the outcomes of the High Level Conference on the Bioeconomy.


Vojtěch Bílý

Spokesman of the Ministry of Agriculture