Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) wants to allow farmers in Germany to exceptionally grow grain on fallow land in the coming year. This should enable farmers to supply more food for the world market. Because of the war in Ukraine, there is a shortage of grain worldwide.
Initially, Özdemir had only offered, in a struggle with the agriculture ministers of the federal states, that farmers could grow wheat for two consecutive years. This means that wheat after wheat could be grown on an area of 380,000 hectares in Germany.
However, Özdemir was initially very critical of suspending the planned set-aside. His compromise proposal was preceded by back and forth at EU level: Originally, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) stipulated that from 2023 four percent of the curses may no longer be farmed in all farms for reasons of species protection. However, against the background of the global food shortage, the EU Commission then declared that an exception to this rule was possible for the coming year. The decision on whether to use the relaxation was left to the Member States.
Özdemir explained that he made his decision to release the set-aside areas for agricultural use after a “difficult weighing process”. “What I am presenting is a compromise that also hurts in one place or another, because it provides for the additional species protection areas actually planned to be introduced in 2024,” explained the minister.
The Green politician should have known beforehand that organizations like the environmental organization Greenpeace would criticize his proposal. After all, in the eyes of nature conservationists, fallow ecological areas are absolutely necessary if biodiversity is not to decrease further. The war in Ukraine and the ensuing global food shortage are now leading to a U-turn on the part of the Greens – similar to the discussion about the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine and the reactivation of coal-fired power plants to conserve gas supplies.
However, Özdemir attaches importance to the fact that already protected set-aside areas may not be cultivated. In addition, it is mandatory that the additional grain cultivation must only benefit food production. The approval is therefore limited to cereal crops (excluding maize), sunflowers and legumes (excluding soybeans). After consultations with the agricultural ministers of the federal states at the end of July, Özdemir said he had the impression that many farmers were giving up the production of animal feed over food -Production preferred. This is exactly what the minister wants to prevent with his proposal.
The federal states still have to agree to Özdemir’s proposal. The chairman of the conference of agriculture ministers, Saxony-Anhalt’s department head Sven Schulze (CDU), welcomed Özdemir’s decision. Schulze told the Tagesspiegel that the agriculture minister had largely followed what a majority of the state agricultural ministers had recently called for at the federal-state conference last month. “This finally gives clarity to our farmers.”
In view of the point in time shortly before sowing, Schulze spoke of a “last-minute decision” and criticized the fact that the Minister of Agriculture had not clarified this earlier. “Apparently Mr. Özdemir does not have a majority within his party on this subject,” said the Magdeburg department head.
While the FDP also welcomed the compromise, criticism came from the Greens in Brussels. “It is absolutely regrettable that the few green points of the common agricultural policy are now being postponed further,” said Martin Häusling, agricultural policy spokesman for the Greens in the European Parliament, the Tagesspiegel with a view to the set-aside originally planned for 2023. “The EU Commission bears the main responsibility for this,” he said. Özdemir had no other choice, especially since the other 26 EU countries and a majority of the agriculture ministers in Germany are also in favor of suspending set-aside for the coming year. In any case, the regulation that four percent of the areas in the companies must be fallow must take effect from 2024, said Häusling.
Özdemir had also previously stated that the exception to set-aside applies “expressly only to 2023”. But that may not be the end of the discussion for the minister. Because the President of the German Farmers’ Association, Joachim Rukwied, has already declared as a precaution: “A suspension for one year is certainly not sufficient.”
Meanwhile, despite a solution brokered by the United Nations to export Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea, there are no signs of a quick relaxation of the situation. As the ARD reported, citing the Ukrainian ambassador in Lebanon, the arrival of the ship “Razoni” in Tripoli, initially planned for Sunday, had been canceled. No information was given about the reasons.
The “Razoni” left the Ukrainian port of Odessa last Monday for Lebanon with 26,000 tons of corn on board. The Russian state news agency Tass reported that the freighter had changed its route and will now dock in Tripoli next Tuesday.