Achieving the European Union (EU) Green Deal objectives may lead to a reduction in livestock production of 10-15% by 2030, according to researchers.
A team at Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands, also predicts that dairy farm incomes across the EU could fall an average of 32% by 2030.
Dr Roel Jongeneel presented Wageningen’s findings to members of the European Parliament’s committee on the environment, public health and food safety and committee on agriculture and rural development in a joint hearing on Tuesday.
The EU’s Green Deal was adopted by the European Commission in December 2019 and involves a set of proposals to make the EU’s climate, energy, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
Dr Jongeneel told MEPs that his team selected 30 livestock farms to study which were chosen so as to reflect the diversity of EU agriculture with respect to animal sectors, production systems and conditions.
The researchers’ simulation of the Green Deal objectives’ impact on net farm income showed a large degree of variation.
Dr Jongeneel said the income impacts are likely to be regionally differentiated, with relatively strong negative impacts in environmental hotspot areas.
He said financial incentives will be needed to ensure a “sufficient adoption of environmental and climate measures” in the case of voluntary adoption by farmers or targeted supports where such measures become obligatory.
Wageningen University and Research also conducted a study on the impact of the EU’s Green Deal objectives on crop production by examining a number of scenarios.
Scenario one involved a 50% reduction in the use of hazardous pesticides and scenario two included a 20% reduction in the use of fertilisers and a 50% decrease in the emission of nutrients.
Scenario three focused on a 25% increase in organic production and scenario four combined the measures in one and two with an addition of 10% of land use being set aside for “high diversity landscape features”.
The researchers looked at 10 crops across seven countries including wheat, maize and sugar beet.
Using scenario four (combined scenarios), Wageningen predicts wheat yields to decrease by as much as 15% and 11% in Germany and France respectively. Dr Jongeneel said yields in Romania could fall by up to 25%.
Meanwhile, the research team predicted that maize yields in France will fall by 7% and as much as 23% in Romania.
Responding to the analysis presented by the Dutch scientists, director of strategy, simplification and policy analysis in the directorate general for agriculture at the European Commission Tassos Haniotis drew attention to the importance of member states’ CAP strategic plans in order to mitigate the impact of climate measures on farmers.
He said that while there are measures within the Green Deal that are limiting production, “uncertainty remains on consumer behaviour” and the Wageningen research had “interesting elements”.
He said consumer behaviour will lead to additional changes in farm production which may or may not be aligned with those required to reach environmental targets.
Speaking on behalf of the Commission, Haniotis said “new technology will be vital” in aiding the adaptation to climate measures.
He also highlighted the role of knowledge transfer and advisory services for farmers in each member state.