Should fields in Germany be less ecological because there is a war in Ukraine? The question has arisen since wheat and animal feed prices have skyrocketed since the start of Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine. In a current hour, the CDU/CSU campaigned on Wednesday for the large-scale expansion of grain cultivation in Germany. It takes “a questioning of the previous policy,” said parliamentary group leader Steffen Bilger (CDU). Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) must “finally get into crisis mode”, demanded Bilger.
The set-aside of land for ecological purposes is not particularly popular with many farmers, but at the same time it is a prerequisite for EU subsidies. Instead of leaving fields completely fallow or just cultivating catch crops such as green rye or oilseed radish, it would be more profitable for many farmers to grow other crops such as wheat.
Özdemir has now recognized the explosive nature of the topic. From the point of view of the minister, regions of the world other than the EU are primarily affected by the loss of grain production in Ukraine. The Green politician recently announced the delivery of more food and groceries to Ukraine. However, since food prices are also rising in Germany and the difficult supply situation in other regions of the world is likely to persist, Özdemir now also wants to enable more wheat cultivation in Germany.
The Minister of Agriculture sees an EU regulation that is due to come into force next year as a lever. It stipulates that, for example, winter wheat may no longer be cultivated in one area for two years in a row. Özdemir announced in the Bundestag that he was working in Brussels to postpone the new regulation on crop rotation. This would allow farmers in Germany to produce more wheat, and wheat could be planted for the second time in a row during the upcoming autumn sowing season. “The environment and soil pay a price for this,” he pointed out.
Winter wheat is currently being cultivated in Germany on an area of around 600,000 hectares for two consecutive years. If Özdemir should prevail with his proposal, the cultivation could be possible in two years in a row on a maximum of three million hectares.
“I think it’s right to make such an offer within the EU discussion,” said Renate Künast, spokeswoman for agricultural policy for the Greens in the Bundestag, the Tagesspiegel with a view to the proposal. “However, the core question of nutrition is whether the majority of the areas should continue to be used for troughs and tanks,” she added.
Because of the war in Ukraine, Özdemir had previously made it possible for animal feed to be harvested this year on the organic areas in Germany that either have to lie fallow or are used for catch crops. However, the traffic light coalition rejected the cultivation of food on the affected areas.
Clear criticism of this decision came from Sven Schulze (CDU), the Minister of Agriculture from Saxony-Anhalt. He pointed out that the EU Commission had approved the use of the so-called ecological priority areas for the production of food this year. In Austria, too, where the Greens are also involved in government, this scope has been used to produce additional food, Schulze said. He demanded that farmers need clarity now in the event that the EU Commission should also allow cereals to be cultivated on the areas previously earmarked for set-aside in 2023.