How agriculture should be reformed

The negotiations on the common EU agricultural policy are about to be concluded. But to equip farmers for the challenges, fundamental reforms would be needed – or even the abolition of direct payments.

You can run out in the open air: calves on a pasture in Irschenberg, Bavaria

Dhe Corona crisis has revealed the challenges of agriculture as if under a magnifying glass: Celebrated as heroes of basic services, farmers were simultaneously confronted with increasing consumer demands. The demand for organic products rose by more than 20 percent in 2020. The trend to consume more consciously received a powerful boost during the crisis. A growing number of customers expect agriculture to take responsibility in the face of climate change and species extinction.

Agriculture was responsible for around 9 percent of German greenhouse gas emissions last year. Ethical issues are also more important to consumers today than they were a few years ago. Cows, pigs and chickens should no longer be just suppliers of meat, milk and eggs, but should lead a species-appropriate life. Many farmers, however, complain about a growing flood of requirements and regulations – and growing economic pressure. The number of farms in Germany has been falling for years, and those that stay are getting bigger and bigger. Although the pace of structural change has slowed somewhat in recent years, there is no sign of a departure from the maxim “grow or shrink”.