Farm to Fork Strategy: How will targets be achieved?

The European Commission adopted the Farm to Fork Strategy in Brussels today, Wednesday, May 20 – which sets out ambitious targets for reducing the use of fertilisers, pesticides and antimicrobial animal medicines.

Officially launched by three commissioners this morning, the strategy was jointly unveiled alongside the EU’s new Biodiversity Strategy.

However, a key question asked by commentators is: How will the targets laid down in the Farm to Fork Strategy be achieved?

The strategy sets ambitious targets:
  • A reduction by 50% of the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030;
  • A reduction of nutrient losses by at least 50% while ensuring that there is no deterioration in soil fertility. This will reduce the use of fertilisers by at least 20% by 2030;
  • A reduction by 50% of the sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture by 2030; and
  • Reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030.

In addition, the strategy includes the aim for all rural areas to have access to fast broadband by 2025, to enable digital innovation.

In its response to this question, the European Commission gave a breakdown of answers based on the target.

Starting with the pesticides target, it noted that, based on experience with the implementation of the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD), “it is clear that more can be done to reduce the overall risk and use of pesticides by promoting practices for integrated pest management to ensure that sustainable, biological, physical, other non-chemical methods and low-risk pesticides are used to protect crops”.

To pave the way to alternatives and maintain farmers’ incomes, the commission said it will take a number of steps, including revising the sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, enhance provisions on integrated pest management (IPM) and promote greater use of safe alternative ways of protecting harvests from pests and diseases.

The commission will also facilitate the placing on the market of pesticides containing biological active substances and reinforce the environmental risk assessment of pesticides.

Existing indicators provide information on the sales of pesticides but also categorise them in terms of risk, allowing for the progress made towards achieving the targets to be measured on an annual basis.

To refine the approach, the commission said it will develop further indicators and propose changes to the 2009 regulation concerning statistics on pesticides.

Turning to fertiliser and soil nutrients, it was noted that member states will have to take ambitious and far-reaching measures to fully implement existing legislation on nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorous) pollution, in order to avoid the associated nutrients leakages that pollute the air and water becoming harmful to human health and the environment.

The commission will develop with member states an integrated nutrient management action plan to reduce and prevent further pollution from excessive use of fertilisers and to foster the recycling of nutrients from different kinds of organic waste as fertilisers.

This will contribute to deliver the “zero pollution ambition” of the EU Green Deal, the authority says.

To further limit the use and promote prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in animals, the new regulations on veterinary medicinal products and medicated feed, to apply as of 2022, “will provide for a wide range of concrete measures”, the commission says.

Their impact on the ground will decrease the use of antimicrobials in farmed animals, the sales of which will be monitored on an annual basis.

In order to reach the target on organic farming in the EU, it is essential to ensure the sustainable economic development of the sector and promote demand, the commission statement says.

In addition to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) measures, such as eco-schemes, investments and advisory services, and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) measures, the commission will put forward an action plan on organic farming.

This “will help member states stimulate both supply and demand for organic products” and will ensure consumer trust through promotion campaigns and green public procurement, the commission concludes.