Europe’s young farmers remain concerned about the on-field feasibility of legislative proposals, made by the European Commission, to halve the use of pesticides by 2030.

While the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) has welcomed the push towards the development of alternative plant-protection products, the organisation now calls on co-legislators to ensure the reduction target is applicable on farms.

Proposals made by the commission require member states to submit annual progress and implementation reports. Farmers must also keep record of their chemical-pesticide use, and establish crop-specific rules to identify alternative options.

While member states can use the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to cover farmers’ costs, caused by the transition away from pesticides, for five years, CEJA said further consistency with the CAP must be established.

The organisation has welcomed the promotion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the commission’s proposals. However, CEJA said, any result-based approach must not place additional weight on the shoulders of farmers, adding:

“The creation of another platform to keep records on IPM practices, and plant-protection strategies, only adds up to the workload of farmers, and the already significant amount of tracking they are doing.”

CEJA president Diana Lenzi said viable, reliable and affordable alternatives for plant protection are needed, as well as a simplified implementation framework. The regulatory process for the use of more resistant plant varieties must speed up, she added.

Young farmers’ thoughts on pesticides

Lenzi emphasised that young farmers want to be part of the transition towards safer and more sustainable plant-protection strategies. However, she said:

“Changing the cure will not erase the disease. At a time of increasing climate pressure and new emerging pests, plant protection is a necessity on the farm, not an option.

“Europe’s young farmers have been committed to the sustainable use of plant-protection products, and the application of IPM principles in their fields – whether it is by favouring the use of non-chemical over chemical methods or adapting their application practices and equipment.”

Young farmers in the EU wish to establish a clear pathway towards use and risk reduction of pesticides, which is inclusive of all farmers, according to CEJA.