Yes, we can: 25% organic agriculture in 2030!
Some people doubt if the EU can achieve its ambition of 25% organic agriculture by 2030. Even if the demand is there, many farmers are manacled to huge loans and to a system that promotes externalisation. But according to Volkert Engelsman, CEO of Eosta, a real shift can be accomplished with strong fiscal signals. EU-Commissioner Frans Timmermans recently said that financial institutions (like Rabobank) will have to write-off some of their investments in intensive agriculture, because they are basically stranded assets. With fiscal measures and write-offs, it can be done. We can't afford not to.
25% organic in 2030 will be a challenge. For countries like Austria or Sweden the goal is within easy reach, but in most of the EU it seems far away. In the Netherlands, one of the biggest agricultural exporters of the world, less than 4% of the agricultural area is now organic. And the reformed Common European Agricultural Policy (CAP), which regulates the distribution of billions in subsidies, sadly failed to adopt any significant change in 2020.
If farmers are not rewarded for green services, how can they go green? Many farmers are deep in the red. Frans Timmerman, vice-president of the European Commission, has therefore suggested in a Dutch tv-program that financial institutions will have to write off loans to farmers to make a shift to more sustainable agriculture possible. Previous investments in practices that threaten biodiversity and the climate just don’t make sense anymore. “I’m saying to Rabobank what I say to all financial institutions: look at your books. Which loans do still have a future?”
Volkert Engelsman, General Director of Eosta, has advised the European Commission on behalf of OPTA, the European organic trade organisation earlier this year. He suggested taking serious fiscal measures, linked to True Cost Accounting, to create a level playing field in the market between companies that externalise social and environmental costs, and companies that work more sustainably. Some options: taxes on artifical fertilizers, pesticides and imported feed; VAT reductions; or even a fundamental change of the tax system like the Ex’tax Project.
According to Volkert Engelsman (and many in the organic sector) there is no alternative: “The new normal after Corona will be healthy, fair and organic. Where there is a will, there is a way."
“I’m saying to Rabobank what I say to all financial institutions: look at your books. Which loans do still have a future?”