CAP can help promote green farming practices
The EU is taking great strides to promote green farming practices through the reformed common agricultural policy, explains Czesław Siekierski.
For some time now, the common agricultural policy (CAP) has been evolving towards increased promotion of environmentally and climate friendly agricultural practices. A greening mechanism was introduced in the latest CAP reform, including a so-called 'green payment', which will amount to 30 per cent of the basic payment farmers receive for providing public goods to society and the environment.
In order to receive this payment, they will have to diversify their crops, retain pastures, set up ecological focus areas or carry out other, equivalent practices. Those not abiding by these requirements will be subject to penalties that could reach up to 125 per cent of the green payment, meaning they would also lose some of the basic payment.
Farms under 10ha have been excluded from the diversification rule, while the ecological focus area requirement does not apply to farms under 15ha.
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The second pillar of the CAP also contains environmentally friendly actions, which cover 30 per cent of its budget.
These include goals such as rebuilding, protecting and strengthening agricultural and forest ecosystems (biological diversity, water, soil), promoting effective use of resources (water, energy) and supporting the transition towards a low-carbon economy (the use of renewable energy sources, limiting the emission of greenhouse gasses, retention and storage of carbon dioxide).
In addition, EU cohesion policy should, to a larger extent, finance investments in rural areas that serve to increase territorial cohesion based on easing up relations between urban and rural areas. We should develop access to broadband internet so that those from rural areas can provide services others, even from other continents.
A strong focus of green investment in rural areas should be on renewable energy, such as wind, solar and water power, as well as energy from managing waste in biogas plants that not only have a positive effect on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases but have also the potential to create jobs in rural areas. Since these investments require large funds, it is necessary to support such projects with public financing.
Water shortages and progressive degradation of soil are becoming increasingly problematic for Europe's rural areas. For that reason, further investments in water and improving infrastructure are needed, as well supporting practices that benefit the soil (counteracting its loss of fertility, erosion and acidification).
Social awareness on high levels of air contamination with dust, benzopyrene and other harmful compounds in rural areas, is increasing, especially in the new member states. The main reasons for this contamination are emissions from low chimneys resulting from burning solid fuels in households.
This phenomenon is particularly troubling for the densely populated areas and in the heating period and results in very serious health and economic repercussions. That is why large investments are needed in this area for replacing heating systems for ones that are more ecological while promoting knowledge and best practices among residents.
Rural areas and agriculture are also a place where rich culture, tradition and customs continue to be cultivated.
Efforts should be made in order to preserve and promote this heritage, which often constitutes an additional source of income for people living in rural areas and leads to the development of agro-tourism that often supplements or even serves as an alternative to agricultural production.
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