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The CAP towards 2020: A call for climate friendly and resource efficient agriculture in Europe

Date

05 Dec 2011

Sections

Agriculture & Food

While welcoming the European Commission’s ambition to make European agriculture more sustainable, Yara International considers the legislative proposals for the CAP-reform falling short of putting resource-efficiency onto the agenda. 

Yara is a firm supporter of a productive and competitive agricultural sector and of anchoring the CAP in the EU 2020-strategy of “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”.  However, this requires a greater emphasis on improving resource-efficiency and farmers must be incentivized to adopt greening measures that can deliver clear benefits for the climate and the environment without jeopardizing production levels and farmer’s income. 

1. Greening: achieving sustainable agricultural production through resource-efficiency 

• Resource efficiency is a common concern for all agricultural sectors in  EU countries and should be a central theme of the “greening” of agriculture in the EU.  Through modern farm management techniques it is possible to reduce the input of energy, water and nutrients in agriculture, while maintaining productivity and production levels. A focus on resource efficiency can therefore lead to reducing the environmental impact of farming without harming farmers´ income. 

• Nutrient losses to the environment create a heavy external cost for ecosystems, human health and the climate. The sustainable use of phosphorus, a critical limited natural resource, is also a growing concern.

• The use of nutrient management systems greatly improves visibility and accountability of the main nutrient flows on the farm and contribute to optimizing crop output, while reducing losses and saving money for the farmer. Nutrient management systems are therefore indispensable for the modern farmer. 

Policy suggestions

• As part of the greening component of Pillar 1, nutrient management systems should be made mandatory for all farms in the EU as a vital first step to improve nutrient use efficiency.

• To accommodate the diversity in European agriculture, resource efficiency targets are best set at country and/or sector level. Building on existing systems, indicators and monitoring tools need to be developed to monitor progress.



2. Greening: Reducing emissions from agriculture and mitigating climate change

• Emissions from agricultural soils in the EU have been reduced steadily since 1990, while food production has increased. However, further reductions are necessary and the EU should introduce mechanisms to reward farmers who adopt measures to further reduce GHG emissions. Agriculture can play a key role in mitigating climate change and must be seen as a part of the solution. 

• The production of mineral fertilizers is an energy intensive process, but nitrogen sources are not all the same. Nitrate based fertilizers can offer energy savings of over 20  % compared to alternative nitrogen sources, making a better use of our natural resources.  

• Nitrate-based fertilizers also offer significant agronomic and environmental advantages compared to other types of fertilizers, including lower volatilization rates resulting in reduced ammonia emissions. This is significant not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a public health perspective given the serious adverse effects that ammonia emissions have on human health.

Policy suggestion:

• As part of the ambition to bring the CAP in line with the EU 2020-strategy, the use of mineral fertilizers with the lowest carbon footprint, calculated using the life-cycle approach (LCA), should be encouraged.

1. Education and knowledge transfer

• EU farmers are among the most efficient, knowledgeable and productive in the world. Their knowledge and practices can contribute to global food security without placing an increased burden on the environment. In this respect setting aside productive cropland in the EU will likely lead to increased land use in areas of the world where sustainable farming practices are lacking. This can have negative environmental consequences, including carbon leakage.

• A more resource-efficient European agriculture requires that all farmers have access to information and research about how to improve resource-efficiency on their farms. Training and education programs need to be extended and actively encouraged to facilitate uptake of best agronomic practices. 

• The use of integrated crop nutrition programs, comprehensive nutrient management systems and precision farming technologies such as nitrogen-sensors, enables farmers  to save on fertilizer input, ensures uniform crop growth and increases yield as well as quality, while minimizing the environmental impact.


Policy suggestions:

• EU policy should step up programs (through the FAS) facilitating education and knowledge transfer from the world of science to rural fields. Agricultural best practices need to be promoted and financially encouraged, including the necessary training for optimal crop nutrition programs.

3. R&D and innovation within agriculture

•The technological aspects of agriculture are becoming increasingly important and we welcome the proposed Innovation Partnership “Agriculture productivity and sustainability”. 

• Basic agricultural R&D needs to be reinforced with a focus on increasing productivity and yields, strengthening crop resilience by developing new crop varieties and finally, how agriculture can help mitigate the potential harmful effects of climate change. 

Yara International is a leading provider of mineral fertilizers and industrial products. Our fertilizers improve crop yield, support food security and enable biomass growth for renewable energy. Through our environmental solutions and industrial products we help safeguard air and water quality and preserve food quality.

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