“The From Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies put forward by the European Commission pose an impossible task for farmers, and not only do the contents of these strategies fail to create an opportunity for farmers, but they are explicitly endangering the future of European agriculture. According to preliminary assessments, the proposed measures would lead to a 15 percent decrease in European agricultural production”, Minister of Agriculture István Nagy said in a statement to Hungarian news agency MTI.

“Both farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture are committed to creating a sustainable environment, but in its proposals included in the European Green Deal, Brussels would like to proscribe target figures that are impossible to realise, while hiding behind environmental and climate change criteria. For instance, they would like to reduce the use of pesticides by half, and would make it mandatory for 25 percent of all agricultural land to be included in ecological farming. These requirements are clearly impossible to achieve within ten years, and without alternative solutions and methods they could not only endanger the European Union’s competitiveness, but also food security”, the Minister emphasised.

“In addition, no impact studies are linked to the strategies. During the drawing up of strategies that are so comprehensive and have such a major effect, a responsible decision can only be made based on studies that analyse their expected effects in a suitable manner”, the Minister warned.

Mr. Nagy added that the proposed measures could lead to a drastic increase in the price of foods and basic ingredients, and in view of the fact that the trade supply chain operates on a market basis, this could open the way for an even greater inflow of foods from outside the European Union.

“Furthermore, the proposal could even lead to the enterprises of Western European countries transferring their production to third countries to an even greater extent, where they need to conform to fewer conditions. The production of foods in third countries is already occurring in a manner that is much less sustainable, meaning it could cause a much higher level of environmental damage than the advantages that may be gained by obligating European farmers to conform to unrealistic green regulations. In addition, the regulations concerning the use of pesticides and their residues are also different with relation to the European Union and third countries. There exist no international regulations base on which third countries could be obliged to conform to additional environmental and climate protection requirements”, he explained.

“If, as the Commission wishes, we nevertheless succeed in convincing certain third countries to introduce similar measures, because of the time difference, EU farmers would still find themselves at a disadvantage from which it will be impossible for them to catch up, or they will be unable to stay afloat until roughly similar competitive conditions develop”, Mr. Nagy pointed out.

“The fact that the proposal would cut the use of pesticides in half represents a major danger in itself, in view of the fact that the conditions for this do not currently exist, since even in the best scenario there are no viable alternatives. It is in the interests of farmers, however, to maintain the security of production, including by other methods. This could indirectly also lead to an increased European agricultural demand for the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which we would certainly not regard as a good direction”, he stated.

The Minister also spoke about the fact that the relationship between the recently published strategy and the Common Agricultural Policy is also not defined. “Based on the legislative proposals for the reform of the CAP, most member states have already begun the preparation of the so-called CAP strategic plans required for the future operation of the funding system. It also seems to be impossible to accept from a legal standpoint for the European Union to immediately enforce its newly defined requirements within CAP planning, because in that case they would be calling member states to account with relation to requirements that will appear in EU regulations that will only come in to force several years from now. By doing so, they would be significantly undermining legal certainty, while additionally they would also not be providing sufficient preparation time for either farmers or member states”, the Minister continued.

“The Hungarian government has emphasised throughout that if we increase the environmental and climate protection burdens on the agrarian sector, then additional EU funding must be provided to that end within the Common Agricultural Policy. The Commission’s proposal regarding the Multiannual Financial Framework will only be published on 27 May as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, and until that document is accepted, without seeing the exact figures, it is irresponsible to put such proposals on the table”, the Agriculture Minister added.

Mr. Nagy also told the press: “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is seriously affecting the whole world and the EU to an increasing extent, it is clear that the Commission should also have postponed the publishing of the proposals that form part of the Green Deal”. “The Commission has already made several major errors with relation to the handling of the pandemic, while in recent months farmers and the whole food chain have proven that they are capable of continuously supplying the population of the European Union with safe foods. However, through its current proposals, the European Commission is thanking those involved for their dedicated efforts by imposing impossible to achieve additional burdens on farmers”, the Minister of Agriculture stated.

The Minister confirmed that the standpoint of both Hungarian and European professional agricultural organisations is that Brussels is endangering the future of European agriculture with its proposals. As an example, he cited a Spanish agricultural organisation, according to which the Executive Vice-President responsible for the drawing up of the recommendations, Frans Timmermans, is a “persona non grata” for agriculture.