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EU Parliament approves weakened green rules for farmers

Published 24/04/2024, 17:22
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French and Spanish farmers block the motorway border between France and Spain during a protest over price pressures, taxes and green regulation, grievances shared by farmers across Europeat Biriatou, France, March 7, 2024. REUTERS/Vincent West

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union proposals to weaken the green conditions attached to the bloc's subsidies for farmers won backing from the European Parliament on Wednesday, as policymakers attempt to quell protests across Europe.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

The proposals reduce some of the environmental rules linked to the disbursement of tens of billions of euros in farming subsidies.

To receive subsidies, farmers would no longer have to leave 4% of their land fallow to support biodiversity.

Farmers could carry out crop diversification, rather than crop rotation, and countries will be able to introduce exemptions from the rules if they face difficulties applying them, and in cases of extreme weather.

Small farms below 10 hectares will also be exempt from control checks or penalties for not complying.

CONTEXT

The farming subsidy tweaks are one of many policy changes the EU has made, or is considering, in response to months of farmers' protests over issues including cheap imports and EU regulations.

With less than two months until European Parliament elections, many EU lawmakers are anxious to address farmers' concerns to attempt to ward off gains by far-right parties, for whom farmers represent a growing constituency.

However, Green lawmakers and campaigners have criticised the weakening of green rules as hasty, and not in the interests of Europe's farmers, who are facing increased stresses from climate change-fuelled extreme weather.

KEY QUOTES

The European Commission has said it is not weakening its environmental ambitions, but making the rules simpler.

"Some elements of the Green Deal are difficult to fulfil for farmers. Our answer is some simplification of our requirements," EU farming commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told Reuters earlier this week.

Organic farming group IFOAM said the proposal did not address farmers' concerns.

"The proposal fails to address the real issues of low prices linked to power imbalances and will ultimately undermine the EU's environmental ambitions," IFOAM President Jan Plagge said.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French and Spanish farmers block the motorway border between France and Spain during a protest over price pressures, taxes and green regulation, grievances shared by farmers across Europeat Biriatou, France, March 7, 2024. REUTERS/Vincent West/File Photo

WHAT'S NEXT

The proposal needs final approval from EU countries, which is expected in May.

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