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Tomorrow's agriculture in Elsfleth - a dialogue begins

The first of our two events on EU agricultural reform was a great success. Here you can now find out first-hand how everything went.

A successful first event

The first event on "The Agriculture of Tomorrow" took place on a Friday at the end of November in Elsfleth, Lower Saxony. True to style, the first venue was in the threshing floor of a farm, only 30 m away there were cows in the free stall. In addition to numerous farmers, students from the University of Oldenburg, two representatives from the nearby environmental agency, conservationists and many more came. 

How the idea for the event came about

I was pleased about the diverse interest, because this event was my idea. I was concerned with the question of how we can promote sensible and sustainable agriculture when the European Union, with its multi-billion dollar funding instruments, has such a big influence on shaping our land (economy). What can we do when, as I understand it, the distribution of these subsidies is often influenced by financially powerful lobby groups? We need more transparency and more participation, I thought, we need a dialogue and so I was able to win Susanne Janßen, who made her farm in Elsfleth available to us for the first event.

Exciting contributions

Although we fired up three ovens, the temperature remained at an estimated chilly 12 degrees. Would people stay in view of the frosty temperatures, was my anxious question? But wrapped up thickly in blankets, with woolly hat, scarf and hot drink, the first thing to do was listen to the two lectures.

Prof. Ralf Otterpohl presented new interesting research results on the subject of soil fertility, among other things. The most productive biological systems in the world are marine plankton and rainforest. Traditional agriculture only achieves about a quarter of this productivity. But this could be changed, according to Prof. Otterpohl, if agriculture paid attention to one factor in particular: The optimal ratio of fungi and bacteria in the soil. If this succeeds, agriculture could even be twice as productive as the rainforest, for example.

Ottmar Ilchman from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) again dealt with the EU Commission's current draft for the next funding period 2021-2027. According to the AbL, the current draft mainly supports large farms. The EU distributes almost € 60 billion in subsidies per year for 13 million European farmers. Yet a small group, about 1.5% of the 13 million farmers, receives a whopping 30% of the subsidies. Something can't be right. The current draft is also very thin on the ground when it comes to environmental and climate protection, and this in times of increasing drought and species loss. There, too, something is out of balance.

Astonishing results

When it came to topics like "What makes me proud about agriculture and what worries me?" or "What kind of agriculture do we want for the future?" in small groups, my anxious question was, do people stay despite the cold? They stayed and talked to each other, with great seriousness and also attentiveness. There was never any noise, no arguments, but rather a conversation began, where solutions for tomorrow's agriculture were sought together. When the results were compiled at the end, I was more than surprised: The cards with "Agriculture and nature conservation have overlaps" and "Regional approach with short transport and sales routes" received the most approval, closely followed by "Less chemicals", "Appreciation of food" and "Promotion of CO2 binding in agriculture, instead of CO2 certificate trading".

Very, very exciting, I thought: a dialogue has emerged that we absolutely must continue.

- Katja Wiese

The pictures of the event can be found in this gallery.

Here are two comments from two participants:

"Thanks again for the great event - I hope you will organise many more!" - Caroline H.

"Thank you for organising and documenting this great event. It was personally and socially very valuable and I wish Naturefund that the next events in Frankfurt will have a similar appeal!" - Julius R.

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