AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER’S VISION FOR A SIMPLER, MORE MODERN AND MORE SUSTAINABLE COMMON AGRICULTURAL POLICY RECOGNISES THE CONTRIBUTION OF SUSTAINABLE HUNTING
At the end of May, I was contacted by FACE in Brussels to request my assistance in persuading EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to be the keynote speaker to the 40th anniversary General Assembly of the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU (FACE) in Brussels in September this year.
Commissioner Hogan and I had worked together previously, particularly during his time as Minister for the Environment when he was a member of the Cabinet here in Ireland. During that period we enjoyed a very good relationship which manifested itself in good co-operation between his Department and hunting interests during that time.
Needless to say, I was happy to be of assistance and I was delighted when Commissioner Hogan confirmed his agreement to making an address to the General Assembly on the 7th of September, to which I had been invited, as well as to the other celebrations connected with the anniversary, by the President of FACE, Dr Michel Ebner.
I had the further honour of being designated to meet, welcome and escort the Commissioner on his arrival.
Commissioner Hogan’s address was very positive and highly significant for hunting throughout the EU and his office has given permission for me to publish the full speech which follows.
Speech by Commissioner Phil Hogan at 40th General Assembly Meeting of FACE 7th September 2017, Brussels
- Honourable Members of the European Parliament, President Ebner, Esteemed Members of European Hunting Organisations,
- Welcome to Brussels! Let me first of all congratulate FACE on your 40th anniversary. 40 is an important milestone in the life of any organisation, and I commend you for using the opportunity to have a wide-ranging debate in relation to your future and how you want to shape it.
- FACE was established in 1977 and has grown into a strong voice to represent the interests of Europe’s 7 million hunters. FACE is the largest democratically representative body for hunters in the world and is probably one of the largest European civil society organisations.
- Your organisation serves as an important bridge between civil society and decision-makers, tackling issues such as biodiversity, wildlife management, rural development and forestry.
- Today, I want to tell you about my vision for a simpler, more modern and more sustainable Common Agricultural Policy. I am confident that there will be many areas of overlap with your own priorities. I hope that you will be a strong voice of support for these proposed changes when the time comes.
- Hunting and farming both depend on the same land, natural resources and functioning eco-systems. And hunting and farming both have a vitally important contribution to make when it comes to securing their sustainable management.
- As the custodians of the Common Agricultural Policy, we regard hunters as important partners in achieving the environmental priorities of the policy, such as “restoring, preserving and enhancing eco-systems”.
- One example is the management of wild animal populations. This is an important element to keep the agricultural eco-system in balance.
- At the same time, this management needs to protect farmers from production losses, such as for instance animal losses caused by excessive numbers of wild boars searching for food.
- Your involvement in monitoring the health status of wild animals certainly helps to minimise associated risks to public health as well as farm animal health.
- Your work on the Biodiversity Manifesto, which demonstrates the commitment of Europe’s hunters to biodiversity conservation, is well recognised.
- Your association’s mission to achieve sustainable hunting as standard practice in support of European eco-systems is very important, and I welcome your evidence-based approach to conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.
- Your work has helped to shape EU legislation in the area of environmental protection as well as promoting its implementation, including mainstreaming within the CAP.
- In particular, you have assured the continuation of a long and strong tradition of debating hunting issues in the European Parliament. The European Parliament Intergroup “Biodiversity, Hunting, Countryside” was created in 1985. Today, it is one of the oldest and most active parliamentary platforms, with 110 MEPs actively supporting it.
- The Intergroup promotes the role of hunting and other forms of sustainable use of natural resources. FACE has provided the Secretariat for this intergroup since 1985 while the European Landowners Organisation serves as Co-secretariat.
- Today I am asking for a continuation of this strong engagement from you. Indeed, going forward I believe we need to develop even stronger synergies between hunters and the farming community in order to enable Europe’s citizens to benefit from functioning ecosystems, habitats and landscapes.
- This will also help us to deliver on Europe’s climate objectives and international commitments, in particular the Sustainable Development Goals.
- When it comes to sustainability we need to note that there are already many possibilities under the current CAP and that we are constantly working to introduce necessary improvements to the existing rules.
- Most recently we have reached a key achievement with the introduction of a ban of pesticides on Ecological Focus Areas, to be implemented from 2018 at latest.
- But it is clear that for the future CAP we will have to seek new and better ways to do even more.
- The public consultation held in the framework of the CAP modernisation and simplification process has not only indicated a vast interest in EU agriculture and the CAP, but has also indicated strong stakeholder and public sympathy for environmental sustainability.
- I’ve read with interest your contribution to the public consultation which – together with the insights gained during the consultation process in recent months – will feed into the Communication on modernising and simplifying the CAP. I will present this critically important document before the end of the year.
- I share in particular your view that economic, environmental – and I would even add social – sustainability need to go hand in hand. We must strive for win-win situations which will have positive environmental and climate effects without compromising food security.
- We also need to find a simple and result-orientated way for the CAP to enable sustainable farming, while taking into account the need to respect local and regional conditions and for flexibility.
- Today I urge you to discuss in detail your aspirations for the new CAP post 2020. Your contribution to this policy discussion is welcome and I look forward to hearing more.
The CAP and wildlife conservation
- Here are a few priority areas you might consider for deeper analysis.
- Under Rural Development two of the six programming priorities target environmental conservation.
- These are ‘resource efficiency and climate change’ and ‘restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems’. Several EU level measures contribute to these priorities:
- We support farmers situated in protected Natura 2000 areas to manage their lands and agricultural businesses in compliance with the birds and habitats directives.
- This will facilitate the sustainable use and management of Natura 2000 protected areas, for instance via specific land management plans. Across the EU, for the period 2014-2020, total public expenditure of €815 million is planned to cover an area of 1.7 million hectares of agricultural and forest land.
- As well as this, agri-environment-climate schemes support:
- the protection and installation of landscape features;
- farming practices adapted to habitat protection and creation;
- soil fertility enhancement;
- and the sustainable use of water and conservation of water bodies to enhance water quality and quantity.
- 31 million hectares of agricultural land are under management contracts across Europe, supporting biodiversity and/or landscapes; and 4 million hectares of forest directly support biodiversity. These contracts are subject to a total public expenditure of €25.3 billion.
- Through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development around €8.2 billion of public expenditure are targeted towards forestry measures in the 2014-2020 period:
- Some €2.2 billion will be dedicated to afforestation and the creation of woodlands. More than half a million hectares will be afforested, contributing to climate change adaptation and the creation of forest habitats.
- Furthermore, Member States across Europe are committed to supporting 184 thousand non-productive investment operations, linked to agri-environmental objectives including biodiversity conservation.
EFA pesticide ban
- EFAs cover 5 % of arable land and are expressly implemented to support biodiversity, particularly for insect, bird and mammal populations. This can have an impact indirectly on the fauna in the field.
- There are many different models for the EFA, such as hedges, buffer strips, fallow land or nitrogen fixing crops.
- Based on the most recent evaluations, green direct payments offer a wide potential in terms of area coverage – up to 77 % of agricultural area was subject to greening in 2016.
- 8 million ha of land or 10% of arable land after weighting factors were declared as EFA, significantly above the regulatory requirement of 5 % at farm level.
- The recent evaluations showed that there is a need to further simplify and reinforce the management of the scheme in order to improve the quality of EFAs for biodiversity purposes.
- To go in this direction, the Commission therefore presented a Delegated Act with a proposal for various changes. This text has been recently adopted by both co-legislators. Most of the changes will enter into force from 2018.
- Different measures will adjust management conditions and will incentivize farmers to declare landscape features and buffer strips to a greater extent than before. In addition a ban on the use of plant protection products on cultivated area qualified as EFA will be introduced.
- In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to once more wish you a “happy birthday”. I urge you to maintain a strong and clear voice during this very important time for the future of Europe’s food production, land management, and biodiversity.
- My pledge is to be your strong partner in this important work. I wish you the best of luck for today’s general assembly, and I look forward to hearing the results of your discussion. Thank you.