As part of a series of small steps towards a greener EU agriculture, the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) obliges farmers to dedicate at least 5% of their arable land to Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) as condition for receiving 30% of direct payments. However, several exemptions and loopholes are now undermining the very purpose of EFAs. One loophole could permit the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers for nitrogen-fixing crops (e.g. legumes) grown on EFAs.
The principle of EFAs is that they support agro-ecological processes such as pollination, soil formation and lead to an improved management of water, and nutrient cycles. This benefits the entire agro-ecosystem of a farm and its surrounding landscapes. EFAs include fallow land, hedgerows, trees, buffer strips, afforested and agro-forestry areas, and measures such as catch crops and winter green cover.
Unlocking the potential of EFAs requires the right conditions to protect and enhance biodiversity. The negative impacts of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers on biodiversity clearly show the need to prohibit their use on these areas. Therefore to protect pollinators’ and beneficiary insects’ critical role to food security, it is important that no pesticides are applied on EFAs, while to prevent pollution from excess nutrients fertilisers should also not be applied. The promotion of such conditions will not only reduce costs for farmers and enhance biodiversity, but in the longer term lead to greater productivity.
However, various attempts to weaken the effectiveness of EFA’s have become known. A letter signed by 23 Member States calls on the Commission to allow agricultural production on all EFAs in CAP implementing rules without excluding pesticides and fertilisers.
By March 11, the European Commission will present its proposals (in the form of Delegated Acts). The European Parliament and Council will then vote on the Delegated Acts respectively before the May elections and later in the summer.
Slow Food is taking part in the initiative on the safeguard of the Ecological Focus Areas, in collaboration with ARC2020, Friends Of the Earth Europe, IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), PAN (Pesticide Action Network) and Groupe de Bruges.
Join the action! Write to your minister or publish a tweet with the hashtag #EcologicalFocusAreas