Farming and food systems are facing mounting challenges across Europe: half of the farming population will reach retirement age within the next ten years, land is increasingly controlled by non-agricultural players, the health of European soils is deteriorating, rural areas are being emptied, and the effects of the climate and biodiversity crises are set to increase in intensity.
In response to these intertwined challenges, ECVC has published a proposal for a European directive on agricultural land. The regulation and fair distribution of land are at the root of multiple issues of food sovereignty and security, the vitality of rural areas, agroecological models and social and climate justice. It is a key, cross-cutting issue, yet one that is absent from the current major institutional political debates. There is an urgent need to put this issue back on the political agenda.
To this end, together with various players from the agricultural world, civil society organisations and political institutions, ECVC is moving forward on the debate on land regulation and the protection of agricultural land.
In a two-part round table, the peasant organizations and civil society actors will present their respective visions of land regulation, soil protection and access to land in Europe, and discuss the needs and ways of regulating land markets to ensure European food sovereignty.
On the 26th of October, key agricultural actors called to ensure land regulation is a priority on the EU agenda as part of a public event on access to land, generational renewal and soil health organised by ECVC.
Representatives from diverse organisations including the European Commission, Parliament, Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, producer organisations and civil society gathered to discuss the needs and forms of regulating land in Europe.
Each of the speakers highlighted the importance of protecting soils and agricultural land, agreeing on the need for urgent action on those intertwined topics.
The question of the fair distribution of land is at the heart of the struggle for generational renewal and soil conservation, and is also key for tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis, as well as ensuring food sovereignty. Access to land is one of the main barriers to generational renewal in agriculture.
During the event, it was clear that land regulation and access to land is high priority for all agricultural actors:
As Sébastien Pérel from the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) put it, “Among our member organisations we agree, access to land is a problem everywhere for young farmers. Whenever we give an overview of obstacles to installation, we see that the main issues are access to land, access to credit, access to market, and the attractiveness of the sector”.
Similarly, MEP Martin Hojsik insisted “We need compatibility and proper coherence between the laws. If a farmer is renting the land and is not guaranteed long-term access, there is no incentive to improve soil health”.
Arnaud Lécuyer, Vice-President of the Brittany Region, also explained how the regions have a role to play in shaping public policies to encourage farmers to set up, for example by creating public reserves of land.
Nicoletta Merlo, from the EESC underlined that “farmland regulation must be designed to ensure access to land, to credit and to knowledge for youth to engage in farming”.
Manuel Eggen, from FIAN highlighted that “regulating land is not a political option, it is a cornerstone of respect for human rights in Europe”.
As Tove Sundström, member of ECVC coordinating committee, concluded, “there is a consensus, a mandate and a momentum to regulate land at the EU level.” Now is the moment to act.