A European Union plan to tie farmer payments to environmental goals will keep agricultural land in production and hold grain output on an upward course, according to the bloc’s executive arm.
A proposal calling for 7 percent of farmland to be crop- free can be satisfied with territory that’s already out of use, Joao Pacheco, the European Commission’s deputy director general for agriculture and rural development, said today in an interview in Brussels. The target can include areas such as canals used for irrigation, he said.
“The 7 percent ecological focus area is a number, a percentage of the area that can be met by areas that today are already not in production,” Pacheco said. “There are a range of possibilities to meet the 7 percent target.”
The 27-nation EU was the world’s biggest wheat producer in the season that ended in June, according to the International Grains Council. The commission wants to tie 30 percent of direct payments to farmers to compliance with environmental goals as part of a reform of the bloc’s agricultural industry.
The so-called greening plan may take 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land out of grain production, Oliver Balkhausen, deputy head of economics at Hamburg-based grain trader Alfred C. Toepfer International GmbH, said in November. The proposal might cut harvests by 14 million to 15 million metric tons, he said.
The EU produced 130.6 million tons of wheat in the 2012-13 season, according to figures from the London-based council.
The greening plan is important for improving the quality of soils in the EU, according to Pacheco. About 45 percent of the bloc’s soils face quality issues, including a lack of organic matter, he said.
“Even if 7 percent of the area were to be taken out of production, output would only fall by 3 percent,” Pacheco said, referring to farm production. “But this won’t happen.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Isis Almeida in Brussels at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org