Why EU wants more grass-based farms

EU Ministers for Agriculture this week backed grasslands, crop rotation, reduced tillage, direct sowing, afforestation and agroforestry, as the ways to maximise carbon sequestration on agricultural land.

Why EU wants more grass-based farms

EU Ministers for Agriculture this week backed grasslands, crop rotation, reduced tillage, direct sowing, afforestation and agroforestry, as the ways to maximise carbon sequestration on agricultural land.

Almost half of the EU’s surface area is in agricultural use, and the surface layers of the farmlands store many times more carbon than the EU annually emits into the atmosphere.

Soil carbon sequestration was the topic of the informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers earlier this week in Helsinki, as Finland got down to the business of its EU presidency, in which achieving balanced long-term EU budget, and progress in EU farm policy reform, are among the stated key priorities.

EU agriculture ministers said soil carbon sequestration on agricultural land is one of the key means of mitigating climate change. Good farming techniques can help agricultural land absorb more carbon from the atmosphere, and these techniques can be supported through the Common Agricultural Policy.

Chairing the meeting, Finland’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä said soil carbon sequestration makes farmers key providers of solutions.

“In addition to mitigating climate change, the accumulation of soil carbon improves soil structure and quality, which helps agriculture adapt to climate change. Soil that is in good condition is also more productive and brings economic benefits to farmers,” Minister Leppä said.

According to the ministers, the CAP provides sufficient capacity to increase carbon sequestration, but funding for agricultural policy must be secured. The debate highlighted that methods for measuring carbon must be improved, research must be increased and put into practice, and the development of innovations must be supported.

Grasslands, crop rotation, reduced tillage, direct sowing, afforestation and agroforestry were highlighted as concrete actions in a number of speeches. “We should also remember that the primary task of farmers is to produce food. We need to find win-win solutions that benefit both farmers and nature in order to keep agriculture commercially viable,” Minister Leppä said.

The proposed CAP reform includes mandatory requirements for all member states to promote good soil condition and preservation of soil carbon stocks.

Carbon stocks on agricultural land in the EU have generally decreased over the past decades, and must be increased.

With the right farming practices, agricultural land can absorb extra carbon from the atmosphere.

Such practices include winter soil cover, long-term grasslands and reduced tillage.

Also this week, there was a warning that removing livestock farming would leave Europe with shortages of essential pasturelands, organic fertiliser, green energy, and other essential raw materials. As well as increased forest fires and reliance on animal product imports, the rural exodus would increase, said European Livestock Voice (meatthefacts.eu), a joint initiative of 11 European animal health, farmer, animal products, livestock breeding, and animal feed organisations.Their aim is to bring balance to public debates in Europe and beyond on the livestock sector. European Livestock Voice said debates have been dominated by interest groups spreading myths and radical views.

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