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Sustainable #agriculture and the responsible fertilizer market

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The European Union and its governing structures strongly support the responsible use of fertilizers in the region. EU countries are not the biggest fertilizer users in the world, but the region has a significant number of companies working in the industry. Even though the potential for growth is high due to product innovation and a growing market for healthy, nutrient-rich foods, demand is likely to be restricted by the expanding application of organic fertilizers and regulatory constraints.

Recent years have seen considerable growth in policies and recommendations regarding responsible fertilizer use and sustainable agriculture. For instance, all EU resident companies starting from the fiscal year beginning on January 1, 2017 or within a calendar year, are obliged to include in their annual accounts aspects related to corporate social responsibility (CSR), business environmental liability, human rights and anti-corruption.  This is in accordance with the European Parliament Directive on non-financial reporting 2014/95/EU of October 22, 2014.

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Moreover, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has urged that sustainable agriculture must be integrated into national and international policy. This was one of its recommendations for policy makers on achieving food security in the face of climate change.

Corporations have also positively contributed to the responsible fertilizer and chemical use movement. Yara International is among companies that strongly focus on sustainable agriculture and positions itself as a leader in the sphere. This fertilizer producer contributes to green growth and sustainable development  by avoiding practices that can cause long-term damage to soil, including excessive tilling of the soil (leading to erosion) and irrigation without adequate drainage (leading to salinization). Long-term experiments have provided exemplary data showing how various practices affect soil properties and how sustainability can be achieved.

Another major CSR project implemented in Europe to minimize the adverse impact on human health and the environment is the International Council of Chemical Associations initiative. It’s called Global Product Strategy (GPS) and is based on 5 pillars:

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Developing a base-set of hazard and exposure information to conduct safety assessments for chemicals in commerce.

Undertaking global GPS capacity building initiatives to implement the best risk assessment practices and management procedures, especially in small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and in emerging and developing countries.

Providing transparent public access to science-based product safety information and throughout the value chain.

Promoting a stakeholder dialogue on science and risk-based chemicals management, as well as developing the Long-Range Research Initiative. This is a global research program that aims to identify and fill gaps in understanding of the hazards posed by some chemicals and to improve the methods available for risk assessment.

Finally, the real strength of GPS lies in the broad commitment behind it: the strategy is promoted and implemented by more than 150 top chemical companies and more than 40 associations globally and the number of supporters is continuously growing. With each new signatory, the GPS success story gains additional momentum to shape the future image of the global chemical industry – an industry that is a trusted and reliable partner in a world where chemicals are valued and managed safely and responsibly throughout their life-cycle.

Top ten fertilizer company EuroChem produces a wide range of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers, as well as some organic synthesis products. It is also developing two large potash deposits in Russia and is a major GPS user. The company recognised quickly that the responsible production and sound management of chemicals are a global responsibility.

EuroChem operates fertilizer production facilities in Belgium, China, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, and Russia, and first began implementing the strategy at its Lifosa subsidiary in Lithuania. The company issues GPS reports for all the mineral fertilizers and related products made at Lifosa, including DAP, a highly concentrated granulated nitrogen-phosphoric compound fertilizer, and orthophosphoric acid, mainly used in the production of mineral fertilizers. EuroChem has extended GPS reporting to all its other fertilizer production plants as part of its ongoing commitment to provide the public with reliable, science-based information on the chemicals it uses and to ensure these present no risk to people or the natural environment at any stage of production.

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Agriculture

EU agriculture statistics: Subsidies, jobs, production

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Discover facts and figures about farming in the EU, including funding by country, employment and production, Society.

Agriculture is an important industry for all EU countries and they all receive EU funds through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These funds support farmers directly through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund and rural areas, climate action and the management of natural resources through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Find out how the Common Agricultural Policy supports farmers.

EU agricultural subsidies by country

In 2019, €38.2 billion was spent on direct payments to farmers and €13.8bn on rural development. A further €2.4bn supported the market for agricultural products.

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The rules governing how Common Agricultural Policy funds are spent is determined by the EU’s long-term budget. The current rules run until December 2022, after which the most recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will come into effect and run until 2027.

Infographic with map showing the amount of Common Agricultural Policy subsidies per EU country in 2019. Key data can be found under the heading EU agricultural subsidies by country.
The division of the Common Agricultural Policy funds between EU countries  

EU agriculture employment statistics

The agriculture industry supported 9,476,600 jobs in 2019 and 3,769,850 jobs in food production (in 2018) and accounted for 1.3% of the EU's gross domestic product in 2020.

Romania had the most people employed in agriculture in 2019, while Denmark had the most people employed in food production in 2018.

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For every euro spent, the farm sector creates an additional €0.76 for the EU economy. The gross value added from farming - the difference between the value of everything that the EU’s primary agricultural sector produced and the cost of the services and goods used in the production process - was €178.4 billion in 2020.

Infographic showing the employment in agriculture (in 2019) and food production (in 2018) per EU country. Key data can be found under the heading EU agriculture employment statistics.
The food and agriculture sectors in the EU  

Agricultural production in Europe

EU agriculture produces a rich variety of food products, from cereals to milk. The EU has legislated to ensure that the food produced and sold in the EU is safe to eat. The EU’s farm to fork strategy, announced in 2020, aims to ensure that food is also produced more sustainably. MEPs want to cut pesticide use to better protect pollinators and biodiversity, end the use of cages in animal farming and increase land use for organic farming by 2030.

Infographic showing how many tonnes of different foods were produced in the EU in 2019.
Food production in the EU  

Common Agricultural Policy 

Data sources 

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Agriculture

European Parliament set to vote on huge farm subsidies' deal

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Members of the European Parliament attend a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Pool
European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski speaks during a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Pool

Lawmakers who helped broker a deal with governments on reforms to the European Union's huge farming subsidy programme urged the European Parliament to give it the final green light on Tuesday (23 November), writes Ingrid Melander, Reuters.

The deal reached in June ended an almost three-year struggle over the future of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, and accounts for about one third of the bloc's 2021-2027 budget -- spending about €387 billion ($436bn) on farmers and support for rural development.

The new CAP rules, which would apply from 2023, aim to shift money from intensive farming practices to protecting nature, and reduce the 10% of EU greenhouse gases emitted by agriculture.

The reforms have a good chance of being approved by the European Parliament later on Tuesday. But environmental groups and some lawmakers say they do not align farming with EU goals to fight climate change and that many of the measures planned to encourage farmers to shift to environmentally friendly methods are weak or voluntary.

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"I'm urging you, please, in the interest of the European farmers, in the interest of the climate, to vote in favour," said Peter Jahr, a German member of the European Parliament.

Addressing criticism of the reforms, he said compromises were needed.

The executive European Commission's agriculture chief, Janusz Wojciechowski, said the reforms would "foster a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector that can support the livelihood of farmers and provide healthy and sustainable food for society while delivering significantly more in terms of environment and climate."

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The reforms would require 20% of payments to farmers from 2023-2024 being spent on "eco-schemes", rising to 25% of payments in 2025-2027. At least 10% of CAP funds would go to smaller farms and all farmers' payments would be tied to complying with environmental rules.

The deal also creates a €450 million crisis fund in case agricultural markets are disrupted by an emergency such as a pandemic.

($1 = €0.8880)

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Agriculture

European Green Deal: Commission adopts new proposals to stop deforestation, innovate sustainable waste management and make soils healthy for people, nature and climate

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The Commission has adopted three new initiatives that are necessary for making the European Green Deal a reality. The Commission is proposing new rules to curb EU-driven deforestation, as well as new rules to facilitate intra-EU waste shipments to promote circular economy and tackle the export of illegal waste and waste challenges to third countries. The Commission also presents a new Soil strategy to have all European soils restored, resilient, and adequately protected by 2050. With today's proposals, the Commission is presenting the tools to move to a circular economy, protect nature, and raise environmental standards in the European Union and in the world.

European Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “To succeed in the global fight against the climate and biodiversity crises we must take the responsibility to act at home as well as abroad. Our deforestation regulation answers citizens' calls to minimise the European contribution to deforestation and promote sustainable consumption. Our new rules to govern waste shipments will boost the circular economy and ensure that waste exports do not harm the environment or human health elsewhere. And our soil strategy will allow soil to get healthy, be used sustainably and receive the legal protection it needs.”

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “If we expect more ambitious climate and environmental policies from partners, we should stop exporting pollution and supporting deforestation ourselves. The deforestation and waste shipment regulations we are putting on the table are the most ambitious legislative attempts to tackle these issues worldwide ever. With these proposals, we are taking our responsibility and walking the talk by lowering our global impact on pollution and biodiversity loss. We also put forward a ground-breaking EU soil strategy with a strong policy agenda that sets out to grant them the same level of protection as water, marine environment and air.”  

The Commission proposes a new Regulation to curb EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation. Just counting from 1990 to 2020 the world has lost lost 420 million hectares of forest – an area larger than the European Union. The proposed new rules would guarantee that the products that EU citizens buy, use and consume on the EU market do not contribute to global deforestation and forest degradation. The main driver of these processes is agricultural expansion linked to the commodities soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee, and some of their derived products.

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The Regulation sets mandatory due diligence rules for companies which want to place these commodities on the EU market with the aim to ensure that only deforestation-free and legal products are allowed on the EU market. The Commission will use a benchmarking system to assess countries and their level of risk of deforestation and forest degradation driven by the commodities in the scope of the regulation.

The Commission will step up dialogue with other big consumer countries and engage multilaterally to join efforts. By promoting the consumption of ‘deforestation-free' products and reducing the EU's impact on global deforestation and forest degradation, the new rules are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. Finally, tackling deforestation and forest degradation will have positive impacts on local communities, including the most vulnerable people like indigenous peoples, who rely heavily on forest ecosystems.

Under the revised Regulation on waste shipments, the Commission delivers on the circular economy and zero pollution ambitions by proposing stronger rules on waste exports, a more efficient system for the circulation of waste as a resource and determined action against waste trafficking. Waste exports to non-OECD countries will be restricted and only allowed if third countries are willing to receive certain wastes and are able to manage them sustainably. Waste shipments to OECD countries will be monitored and can be suspended if they generate serious environmental problems in the country of destination. Under the proposal, all EU companies that export waste outside the EU should ensure that the facilities receiving their waste are subject to an independent audit showing that they manage this waste in an environmentally sound manner.

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Within the EU, the Commission is proposing to simplify the established procedures considerably, facilitating waste to re-enter the circular economy, without lowering the necessary level of control. This helps to reduce the EU's dependence on primary raw materials and supports innovation and the decarbonisation of EU industry to meet the EU's climate objectives. The new rules are also bringing waste shipments to the digital era by introducing electronic exchange of documentation.

The Regulation on waste shipments further strengthens action against waste trafficking, one of the most serious forms of environmental crime as illegal shipments potentially comprise up to 30% of waste shipments worth €9.5 billion annually. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the enforcement regime includes setting up an EU Waste Shipment Enforcement Group, empowering the European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF to support transnational investigations by EU Member States on waste trafficking, and providing stronger rules on administrative penalties.

Finally, the Commission has also presented a new EU Soil Strategy - an important deliverable of the European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 for tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. Healthy soils are the foundation for 95% of the food we eat, they host more than 25% of the biodiversity in the world, and are the largest terrestrial carbon pool on the planet. Yet, 70% of soils in the EU are not in a good condition. The Strategy sets a framework with concrete measures for the protection, restoration and sustainable use of soils and proposes a set of voluntary and legally binding measures. This strategy aims to increase the soil carbon in agricultural land, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, and ensure that by 2050, all soil ecosystems are in a healthy condition.

The Strategy calls for ensuring the same level of protection to soil that exists for water, the marine environment and air in the EU. This will be done through a proposal by 2023 for a new Soil Health Law, following an impact assessment and broad consultation of stakeholders and Member States. The Strategy also mobilises the necessary societal engagement and financial resources, shared knowledge, and promotes sustainable soil management practices and monitoring, supporting the EU ambition for global action on soil.

More information

Question and Answers on New rules for deforestation-free products

Factsheet on New rules for deforestation-free products

Proposal for a new Regulation to curb EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation

Question and Answers on Revised waste shipment rules

Factsheet on Revised waste shipment rules

Proposal for a revised Regulation on waste shipments

Question and Answers on Soil Strategy

Factsheet on Soil Strategy

New EU Soil Strategy

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