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2020 a crucial year for agroforestry in Europe

by Patrick Worms, EURAF's President

This will be a crucial year for agroforestry in Europe.

First, the entire architecture of the common agricultural policy will be changed. Much of the detailed rule-crafting and decision-making will be repatriated to the member states, who will have to explain how they plan to meet broad European objectives through so-called strategic plans.

Second, the European Union is finally beginning to take climate change almost as seriously as the emergency demands (“almost”, because net-zero by 2050 suggests we still have tons of time, when we have none), aiming for Europe to become a net zero continent by 2050.

The European Green Deal is the signature policy of the new commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and its details are being fleshed out now. Crucially, it counts on agroforestry to help deliver net zero: “The Commission will work with the Member States and stakeholders to ensure that from the outset the national strategic plans for agriculture fully reflect the ambition of the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy. These plans should lead to the use of sustainable practices, such as precision agriculture, organic farming, agro-ecology, agroforestry and stricter animal welfare standards.”

And these are not mere words. Just a few weeks, the Commission detailed plans to raise 1 trillion € to finance the transition.

However, this topline policy direction may be getting lost with the officials tasked with developing the strategic plans in our member states. That is why we need to become involved. We need to meet them and impress upon them the crucial importance of agroforestry in meeting environmental, social and economic objectives in a time of climate change.

In a word, we need to seduce them. And, because this is all happening at a time when member states take most of the decisions, it is you that will have to do the seducing!

But fear not, we can help. First, have a look at this article which details why this is so important. Second, there’s a handy list of amendments we are seeking to the key legislation in Europe. Third, as you develop your national lobbying objectives, we are more than happy to help.

Here is our first piece of advice: keep it short. Identify three overarching things you would like to see in your national strategic plan and push for those. Resist the temptation to push for too many, unless you have an army of lobbyists at your disposal.

And here is our second: build alliances. Everywhere, the young are the most concerned about climate change, and if you can harness their energy to push for agroforestry, you will have a noisy and valuable set of allies. Second, remember our core constituency: farmers. It is they who have to take the risk of adopting new, unfamiliar interventions in their everyday lives. For them, focus on support and on money. Incentives matter.

Finally, remember that you are not alone. Yes, the ability of EURAF to draft perfect legislative texts in Finnish or Hungarian may be limited. But together, we are hundreds of agroforestry scattered around Europe, and the more we share our ideas and energies, the more successful we will be.

Onwards, always!