Meat & Livestock News

Navigating the Complexities of Agricultural Sustainability: Insights from EU’s Agricultural Head

Smart Farming with Internet of Things, IoT concept. Agriculture and modern technology are used to manage crops. Analysis of insights such as weather, soil conditions and environmental. crop rice field

Wolfgang Burtscher, the head of the EU’s Agricultural Directorate, recently visited New Zealand for discussions with key agricultural officials, including MPI director general Ray Smith.

During his stay, Burtscher engaged in farm visits in the Wairarapa and participated in a forum organised by EU Ambassador to NZ, Nina Obermaier, which was attended by EU diplomats, senior NZ government officials, and agricultural leaders.

Sustainability in Agriculture: A Multifaceted Challenge

In an exclusive interview with Rural News, Burtscher emphasised the multifaceted nature of sustainability in agriculture. He highlighted the need to balance environmental and ecological aspects with social sustainability, ensuring farmers receive fair income and contribute to vibrant rural communities.

The complexity of sustainability was underscored by the dilemma of determining who is more sustainable between intensive and extensive farmers, each having their own merits and drawbacks in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity.

European Perspective on Farming and Sustainability

Burtscher pointed out that Europe has witnessed a significant decline in its farming population, losing over five million farmers, with an average farm size of just 17 hectares.

Despite this, he stressed the importance of farming for food production and maintaining rural communities. He noted that competitiveness is not the only measure of farming’s importance, which is why the EU subsidises its farmers, recognising their broader societal contributions.

Global Agricultural Issues and the Role of Consumers

The forum discussed various global issues affecting farmers, including climate change, urban encroachment on productive land, and the influence of consumers and buyers on farming systems and sustainability. Burtscher raised concerns about food security, exacerbated by COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which have highlighted the critical role of farmers.

Economic Viability and Fair Compensation for Farmers

Burtscher emphasised the need for farmers to be fairly compensated for their efforts towards sustainability, especially in light of rising costs for energy, fertiliser, and other inputs leading to increased food prices. He questioned whether farmers are being adequately rewarded for their products and suggested that governments worldwide have a role in monitoring and ensuring fair compensation.