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Von der Leyen is further helping farmers by relaxing controls

The 27 Ministers of Agriculture will meet in Brussels next Monday to formulate a response to the protests and demonstrations in the agricultural sector. To keep up the pressure on ministers, agricultural organizations have already called for new actions in the capital.

In view of that meeting, the European Commission presented a series of options on Thursday afternoon. These should “reduce the pressure that our hardworking farmers feel,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Some “good agricultural and environmental conditions” on which the payment of agricultural subsidies depends are being further weakened. The measure that farmers must leave 4 percent of their land fallow was already suspended at the end of January for 2024.


The Commission is now also proposing an adjustment to the obligation that the share of permanent grassland must be maintained at the 2018 level by mid-March. Livestock farmers who are forced to switch to arable crops due to market disruptions will have to convert less land into permanent grassland. The obligation to provide a minimum ground cover during the winter (for example by sowing a green cover or maintaining stubble) is also being “reexamined”.

The Commission’s proposal to reduce the number of checks by national or regional authorities on farms by up to 50 percent is far-reaching. That adjustment would already happen in March. “With fewer government visits, farmers will have more time for their core activities.”

The concept of force majeure and extraordinary circumstances, which means that farmers do not risk sanctions if they do not comply with the requirements of agricultural policy, will also be “clarified”. “This will provide more certainty that farmers affected by such circumstances will still receive their agricultural support.”

Small farms

In the medium term, the Commission mainly wants to accommodate smaller agricultural companies through adjustments to agricultural policy. This came into force in 2023, after the European Parliament and the Member States agreed on it in 2021.

Farmers with less than 10 hectares of land would be completely exempt from checks on good agricultural and environmental conditions. According to the Commission, this would not be at the expense of environmental ambitions, because these small companies “represent only 9.6 percent” of the area for which agricultural support applies.

With these adjustments, the rules on fallow agricultural land, ground cover in winter and crop rotation on at least a third of the agricultural area could also be “reexamined” – read: definitively relaxed or deleted.

There will also be an online consultation where farmers can give their opinion on the administrative burden associated with the nitrate directive for fertilization. Another online survey will start in March in which farmers can explain how agricultural policy leads to administrative nuisance and complexity. These results will be incorporated into an analysis in the fall.

Reply to far right

Agriculture ministers will approve some measures on Monday. A consultation was organized through the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Commission is now taking up these proposals. Medium-term adjustments can only be made through legislative procedures and can only be made after the elections.

The proposals naturally contain a political message. The blockages of ports or cities and empty shelves in department stores have a direct impact on the economy.

In the run-up to the European elections in June, the Commission and the governments also want to provide a political response with their proposals to far-right parties that have emerged as defenders of the farmers in recent months. The European People’s Party in particular, to which Von der Leyen belongs, is doing everything it can to reclaim the title of ‘peasants’ party’.

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