Skip to Main Content
Resource · Blog

Cultivating Change: EU Agriculture Policy's Push for Net-Zero Emissions

How can the EU address sustainability while ensuring food security? Learn more about ongoing reforms and upcoming regulations shaping the future of European agriculture, and pathways for the agriculture industry to achieve net-zero emissions.

Back to resources listing

The complexities of EU agriculture policy lie in balancing diverse stakeholder interests, regional disparities, and environmental obligations. Staying informed is vital to understand how EU policy decisions impact food production, environmental practices, market access, and consumer choices. Failure to stay informed can result in missed opportunities, reduced competitiveness, policy misalignment, and inadequate responses to evolving legislative and regulatory changes.

An urgent challenge on the EU agenda is to address sustainability while ensuring food security. To comprehend ongoing reforms, upcoming regulations, and emerging and contentious trends shaping the future of European agriculture, the FarmTech Society, an industry association supporting Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), hosted a recent panel at GreenTech Amsterdam on regulatory frameworks in the agriculture industry to achieve net-zero emissions. GreenTech Amsterdam is the global meeting place for all professionals involved in agriculture and, specifically, horticulture technology. The panel “Regulatory Transition Net-Zero” included Garance Debost, an agriculture policy analyst at EU Issue Tracker, moderator André van Wageningen, head of sustainability at Grodan, Jed Portman, communications manager at 80 Acres Farms, and Cecilia Luetgebrune, secretary general of Growing Media Europe.

“Right now, there is a significant disagreement between the European Co-Legislators (the European Parliament and the Council) and the European Commission regarding plans to foster sustainability in farming practices,” said Debost. Two proposals, in particular, have stirred up concerns among farmers and other stakeholders: the Nature Restoration Law and the Regulation on Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products.

The Nature Restoration Law

This comprehensive legislation aims to restore degraded ecosystems, such as wetlands, forests, and marine ecosystems. Its focus is to enhance biodiversity, safeguard essential ecosystem services, mitigate climate change, and strengthen Europe's resilience and food security by preventing natural disasters.

“This proposal seeks to allocate 10 per cent of agricultural lands for restoration, effectively removing them from production. While the intention behind this law is to promote biodiversity and environmental conservation, it has sparked debates over its potential impact on farmers and their livelihoods,” Debost said.

The Regulation on Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products

As part of the European Green Deal's Farm to Fork strategy, the EU aims to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the overall use and risk of chemical plant protection products by 2030, with a particular focus on reducing the use of more hazardous ones. This proposed regulation would require Member States to adopt and meet binding national targets to contribute to these EU-wide goals, while also implementing bans on using all plant protection products in specific sensitive areas to protect biodiversity and public health.

“This proposal, aiming to reduce pesticide use in farming, has been met with apprehension from farmers. While the goal of minimising the environmental and health risks associated with pesticide application is commendable, stakeholders are voicing concerns about the feasibility and potential consequences for agricultural productivity,” Debost said.

Learn About Upcoming EU Policy Changes

Examining the evolution of EU policy over the last four years and insights into what's to come.

Standstill Between the Institutions and What’s Next

“The European Parliament's leading party, the EPP, has withdrawn from negotiations due to opposition to these proposals. The disagreement between the Co-Legislators and the Commission has created a deadlock in the decision-making process,” Debost said. “However, it's essential to note that the Commission is standing firm and has linked the adoption of these proposals to the forthcoming Regulation enabling the use of NGT-derived (New Genomic Techniques) plants. These NGT-derived plants are expected to contribute to the objectives outlined in the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, and the Biodiversity Strategy,”

The Farm to Fork Strategy, presented in 2020 at the centre of the European Green Deal, is the main agricultural framework working toward the transition to net-zero. It involves different legislatures and non-legislative proposals. And, like most EU proposals, it relies on advisory services, financial instruments, research, and innovation as the key provisions to make it easier and affordable for farmers to switch to low-carbon farming. Horizon Europe, the EU's research and innovation funding programme running until 2027, invested around 10 billion euros in research and innovation to ease Europe's transition to a more sustainable food system.

“The EU emphasises the importance of sharing best practices and engaging with other stakeholders while adding provisions to name independent bodies or advisers to help farmers and industries to implement the rules. This includes monitoring and reporting provisions to assess and evaluate the transition and track the path towards progress,” said Debost.

Moreover, the EU started to consider the regional disparities of Member States, notably in establishing the common agriculture policy (CAP) budget and adopting national strategic plans. The goal would be to provide states with more flexibility to choose which part of the sector they want to spend this budget on.

So, how can policymakers balance promoting sustainable practices and ensuring food security to achieve the transition to net-zero emissions?

Policy and Innovations to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions and Food Security

The Commission's position is that these two issues are not mutually exclusive in the long term. Promoting sustainable practices and transitioning to net-zero are necessary to preserve food security.

Nevertheless, EU policymakers have recognised the financial dimension of this problem with particular attention to low-income households that need access to a diversified, healthy, and nutritious diet.

Additionally, research and innovation, technological development, knowledge transfer, and reskilling are key factors that enable producers to adjust to long-term challenges while keeping short-term effects to a minimum and increasing efficiency in food production.

Furthermore, access to finance is critical for many producers, whether for funding investments or working capital, as small producers often find it more challenging to access capital than other EU economic sectors.

As Europe begins its journey toward net-zero emissions, there are three crucial measures the industry should actively encourage, according to Debost:

  1. Low carbon-agricultural practices, currently under negotiation

  2. The presentation of the legislative framework for sustainable food systems by the end of 2023 and the integration of organic production-derived foodstuffs

  3. Ensuring efficient access to data so that the EU leaders, governments, and other stakeholders can assess production, manage resources, and monitor changes in the agricultural sector

Moreover, Portman emphasised how legislators should recognise an emerging opportunity to contribute to food security and create new agricultural jobs. “Vertical farming is still a small industry; it’s not a current priority for politicians. We need to speak as an industry, meaning acting as one voice. We have reduced water use by 95 per cent and use less land than traditional farming,” he said.

Five European ESG Policy Themes That Will Change the World

What recent ESG policy developments in the EU mean for the rest of the world.

How to Navigate the Complexities of Agriculture-Related Policies Within the EU

It’s vital for companies to monitor the legislative process of the EU daily to fully understand policy development, detect compliance violations, and anticipate future changes and significant issues, according to Debost.

“Understanding the rapidly evolving EU regulatory landscape will enable you to adapt your strategies, anticipate changes, and engage in constructive dialogues to shape future policies,” she adds.

Relying on expert assistance may be beneficial to receive concise insights into the requirements and the risks involved regarding complex dossiers. To take public affairs engagement a step further, representation by a business association can protect your interests while engaging with institutions involved in the regulatory process.

“The general public and most politicians don’t know that the growing media sector actively contributes to several green deal goals and the net-zero objective. There is an enormous communication challenge, so for any industry, investing resources in strong European sector associations like Growing Media Europe is key to making their voice heard,” Luetgebrune said.

Stay On Top Of Developing And Upcoming EU Agricultural Policy With EU Issue Tracker

EU Issue Tracker’s team of Brussels-based policy analysts help you not only monitor but also act on changes in EU policy. We capture the latest developments and future timelines of all EU dossiers and monitor, catalogue, and assess their implications. Acting as a force multiplier, EU Issue Tracker takes a systematic approach to policy intelligence and analysis. By removing the manual work typically involved in policy monitoring, EU Issue Tracker saves you time and puts the information that matters in front of you.

Ready to see for yourself?

See how EU Issue Tracker saves you time and resources in this election year.

Back to resources listing