Environment and agriculture in dialogue

Agricultural stakeholders meet with German Environment Agency in Dessau-Roßlau

Ein Acker mit Traktorspuren.Click to enlarge
Many of the environmental problems in agriculture remain unsolved.
Source: Karin Jähne / Fotolia.com

The German Environment Agency met on 7 July 2020 in Dessau-Roßlau to engage in an exchange with representatives of various agricultural associations. "The debate about overfertilisation is a prime example of the conflicts of interest between agriculture and environment. The situation on other issues is also unsatisfactory for both sides. The stress exerted by agriculture on soil, water, air, climate and biodiversity remains high. At the same time, many farmers are under high price pressure and complain of excessive regulation. It is clear to me that we can only reach our environmental goals for the future together. Our farmers are absolutely essential partners in the conversation," said UBA President Dirk Messner, upon meeting with representatives of the German Small Farmers' Association, the Organic Food Industry Federation, the German Farmers' Association, German Agricultural Society, and the “Land schafft Verbindung – Deutschland" farmers' group.

Germany has had a problem with excessive fertiliser application for decades. Surpluses pollute water, air, climate and are harmful to biodiversity. The problem has not yet been solved because the conflicts of interest between environment and agriculture were too grave. The situation came to a head in 2018 when the European Court of Justice judged Germany to be in breach of its obligations for inadequate implementation of the Nitrates Directive and threatened imposing heavy fines. As a result, the Fertiliser Ordinance, which had only recently been revised in 2017, had to once again be adapted and toughened in 2020.

"This was the inevitable outcome," says Dirk Messner. "I can understand that many farmers lack planning security under these circumstances. However, the lesson to be learned from this cannot be to maintain the status quo, but rather that agriculture and environmental protection need to agree on effective solutions at an early stage in the future - solutions that will effectively eliminate the problems".

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