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Agricultural turnaround to corporate dictatorship

The final report had not yet been published, so the “Free Farmers” already knew what the participation of their professional colleagues in the Zukunftskommission Landwirtschaft ZKL was: “A slap in the face for all those who have committed themselves.“There is a dispute in agriculture and about them. From now on, however, on a completely new basis, because the future commission convened by the federal government has really presented a vision.

The youth presents

“Agriculture contributes to the protection of the environment, nature and animals. Regenerative land use preserves and improves the health of people and animals, as well as the quality of water, soil and air.“That’s what the “Common Vision for the Future of Agriculture"says. And anyone who knows anything about the countryside and agriculture knows that this heralds the 180-degree turn. Although that does not mean that it would go back, because what this vision wants, agriculture has never done. This is completely new.

The vision is based on the cooperation of the two most recent Commissioners. Kathrin Muus of the Bund der Deutschen Landjugend BDL and Myriam Rapior of the BUNDjugend had found out that there were"lots of old men and women talking about their future”. This is what one of the scientists in the commission, nature conservation professor Manfred Niekisch, tells us. During the discussion, the idea developed – driven by agricultural economist Prof. Hiltrud Nieberg from the Thünen Institute-to let the two youngest make the mark – up. So Myriam Rapior and Kathrin Muus sat down together and fought and worked out the common “vision of the future”. That’s where the visionary quote comes from. In the end, the entire Commission took over this and made it the core of its final report.

“That was really amazing,” says organic farmer Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, representative of the Federal Ecological Food Industry in the commission. For him, two things were astonishing: that the young women of the BDL and the BUND had come to an agreement. “They come from extremely different corners of society.“And that the entire commission followed them:” Because there were thirty different interests represented.““Gesamtgesellschaftliche Aufgabe: Landwirtschaft” is the title of the Unabhängige Bauernstimme, the journal of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft AbL, which was also represented in the Commission. This is also the title of the Commission’s report. “Everyone has to take responsibility instead of just making demands,” says ABL Chair Elisabeth Fresen. Something seems to have been understood.

But far from all. “In the future lies death. The Future Commission is preparing to phase out agricultural food production in Germany.“So farmers comment at the industry service top agrar:” The day will come when the plates will no longer be full, then the whole representatives will be able to show the people how to feed on flower meadows and insects.“And Dirk Andresen, the representative of the young association “Land schafft Verbindung” LsV, which has co-organized the peasant protests of recent times, is directly attacked by the equally new “Free Peasants”. That he had been involved, this was just the “slap in the face for all who have committed themselves”. Hubertus Paetow, Member of the Commission and President of the German Agricultural Society DLG, says in an interview with tagesschau: “Our big task now, and I still have a stomach ache, is to take the entire profession with us and really all say that we now accept this and look forward as farmers to agri-environmental measures, because this brings us social recognition.”

The system is at the end

“Agriculture is systemically important.“This is the first sentence of the 187-page final report of the Future Commission. It could also read: agriculture is the system, because " it is the basic economic activity of man. In the first place, it has made possible the division of labour, the formation of cities and states, and is thus also the basis of every civilisation.“And with steady increases in production, it has enabled the population to grow and ensured its prosperity. Which also grew out of the fact that more and more money was available to us for other than food. Which brings us to the heart of the problem. In other words, rents could only rise so ugly because food is too cheap. It doesn’t say that, of course. But this: “The reverse side of this progress are forms of overuse of nature and the environment, from animals and biological cycles to the dangerous impairment of the climate.”

The report states soberly that agriculture is also in economic crisis. “Various factors, not least political ones, have led to economic practices that are neither ecologically nor economically and socially sustainable.“And then follows, already on the first page of the “Executive Summary”, with which such reports always begin, the decisive sentence: “In view of the external costs that the prevailing forms of production entail, an unchanged continuation of today’s agricultural- and food system for ecological and animal ethical, as well as for economic reasons.“Later in the Commission report, it is stated that our economic system is largely based on"the externalisation of actual production costs to the detriment of public goods such as climate, biodiversity and animal welfare”. This paper has also been signed by the German Farmers ' Association. Felix Löwenstein says: “Before working in the Future Commission, I could not imagine that the German Farmers' Association would accept that agriculture, as it works today, externalizes part of its production costs.“Because that means that we all pay for their destruction of biodiversity and climate, and the farm animals pay with their suffering. Perhaps it was a good thing that the actually nominated farmer president Rukwied had his vice Werner Schwarz do the work in the commission. At the end, he said a sentence that describes the mood in the commission: “We did not get rid of each other-but approached each other!”

In view of a social debate “of intimidating proportions”, as Commission Chairman Prof. Peter Strohschneider describes the current discussion on agriculture, all commissioners probably expected open battles. But” the emotional confrontation was already out after the first three sessions in the plenum, " notes Manfred Niekisch. This may also have been due to Strohschneider’s idea that two of the six scientists appointed to the commission should each lead one of the three working groups on ecology, economics and social affairs.

While in the passionate public debates about agriculture one likes to beat around the ears alleged facts that no one can check quickly, “the constant presence of scientists brought calmness and objectivity to the talks,” Felix Löwenstein notes. There was a corrective that probably slowed down unprovable claims in advance and that would have had entire institutes available as fact checkers if necessary.

With the discussions led by the scientists in the three working groups, objectivity and calmness returned to the Commission. “Trust has been built up,” says Werner Schwarz, vice president of the farmers ' union at NDR-Info. “Trust has been built up,” says organic farmer Felix Löwenstein.

Social task

Julia Klöckner, still Federal Minister of Agriculture, says that she confirms all this in her policy. Which brings us back to everyday political life. Because the opposite is the case. The Future Commission demands that the area subsidies of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union be abolished. Julia Klöckner has just fought to preserve as much of it as possible. The Future Commission wants agriculture to be paid for ecological services. The Minister for Agriculture and her fellow Council members in the EU have just managed to ensure that the eco-schemes in question are kept as small as possible in the next CAP subsidy period.

But these were – perhaps, hopefully, perhaps-the last battles of retreat of the old agricultural policy. Which also ensured that the Future Commission for Agriculture could not present its final report until all agricultural policy decisions for this parliamentary term had been taken. Therefore, the paper rushes now in the middle of the election campaign. But the fact that it is talked about there in the usual way is not to be feared. In any case, the outgoing Chancellor stated at the handover of the report: “It is a nice package for all those who will potentially be able to govern, they can no longer get around it.“The future federal government must also play a part in the overall social task of transforming agriculture. The next Minister of Agriculture can no longer stand on the brakes. Perhaps there does not have to be one or the other, perhaps a Ministry of Food and Agriculture is too small, too narrow a portfolio for the task of society as a whole.