1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Panel foresees broad farm reform, state incentives

July 6, 2021

Germany's Agriculture Futures panel has delivered its report to Chancellor Angela Merkel, aimed at retaining family farms and reconciling animal welfare, climate impacts, sustainability and shoppers' food needs.

Merkel pats a cow
Merkel initiated the commission in 2019 during protests over farming policyImage: Axel Heimken/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's Agriculture Futures commission on Tuesday delivered its final report on agricultural reform to Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling for broad change.

The report, portrayed as a consensus document, is the culmination of decades of bitter wrangling between farmers, ecologists, supermarket chains and animal welfare advocates.

It recommends a wide-ranging reorganization of Germany's agricultural and food supply sectors, underpinned by state investment to encourage costlier but environmentally improved production and resulting pricing among consumers used to buying at discount at supermarkets. 

Merkel described the report's delivery as a "significant day" for Germany, asserting that the next government — beyond the federal September 26 election — would not be able to ignore the panel's findings.

The commission, initiated by Merkel in 2019 during hefty protests over farming policy, spent 10 months in deliberations, recommending less-resource-intensive meat production and better spacing for livestock in pens.

It brought together 31 top representatives of Germany's farming, food retailing, consumer, ecological, animal welfare and scientific sectors, chaired by Professor Peter Strohschneider.

"Ecologically responsible agriculture can be economically attractive and economically beneficial,'' said the former president of Germany's DFG research funding institute.

'Square the circle'

Strohschneider had described the panel's work, bringing together so many diverse and opposing interests, as being akin to "trying to square the circle."

Greenpeace head Martin Kaiser quit the talks in March, claiming that German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, whose ministry housed the panel's secretariat, was trying to remove "guardrails" anchored in EU Agriculture policy.

Only with the help of billions of euros in EU funding would the ecological modernization of agriculture succeed, Kaiser said.

Klöckner insisted that a societal consensus was needed so that young generations felt encouraged to take over their parents' farms and not be blamed sweepingly for "every climate and environmental issue."

Common Agriculture Policy

The panel's report follows the "green light" given last month by the EU's 27 agriculture ministers, including Klöckner, of Merkel's conservatives, for the bloc's next Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) period, from 2023 until 2027.

Still pending is final CAP approval by the European Parliament, some of whose members want tougher steps on livestock welfare and to tackle climate warming.  

Foreseen under a future CAP is that farmers be required to invest 20% — rising to 25% — of their subsidies on "eco schemes," no longer based largely on hectares (acres) farmed but also on environmental criteria.

Examples include "set-aside" pastures to foster depleted insect populations and wetland soil restoration to absorb C02 to mitigate climate change.

Of Germany's 358,000 square kilometers (138,000 square miles), 51% is used for agriculture and 30% for forestry, with urbanization and transport taking 14%.

To sustain its lifestyle, however, Germany uses three times its total land area, largely by importing produce, according to a study published last year by the Thünen research institute.

Foreign foodstuffs imported into Germany caused a heavier footprint than locally grown produce, concluded the institute based near Braunschweig.

Germany currently has 169,000 livestock farms, 20% fewer than a decade ago but larger in area on average, with holding capacity of 11.3 million beef cattle, 3.9 million dairy cows, 26 million pigs and 183 million poultry.

ipj/aw (dpa, Reuters)