How does society deal with farmers

Agricultural subsidies for farmers : What the peasants owe to society

Money is a tried and tested instrument for controlling developments. Used incorrectly, however, you steer in the wrong direction - as in agricultural policy.

The billions from Brussels once created mountains of butter and milk lakes because the farmers - padded with fixed prices for their products - cheerfully produced beyond demand. Now people pay by area instead of quantity. Most of the money, the direct payments, is paid to farmers simply for cultivating the land. The more hectares, the more coal.

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It's not up to date for a long time. In times of climate change it is becoming more and more important how the land is cultivated. Land cannot be increased at will. Farmers are not landscapers, but as landowners they have a responsibility - for their land, nature, the climate and their animals. It doesn't matter whether insects find food on the edge of the field and how much manure ends up on the field. German farmers receive six billion euros every year for their work, which profession can say that of itself?

Full shelves and cheap groceries are no longer enough

For the money, society can ask for more than full shelves and affordable food prices. And it does that too: The pressure on farmers to work in an environmentally friendly manner and to improve the keeping of their animals is growing. This cannot be reconciled with the previous system: many farms produce for the world market and compete there with producers who do not consider the environment or animal welfare. It doesn't have a future. Agriculture in Germany must become more ecological, regional and animal-friendly.

The start of the transition

So it is high time to change course in terms of agricultural subsidies. The federal government has taken the first step towards this. The Common European Agricultural Policy (GAP), which is being negotiated in Brussels, is not yet dry, but the Federal Cabinet set the course for Germany on Tuesday.

One thing is clear: in future every farmer will have to do something for the environment in order to continue to receive direct payments. How high the payments will be in total depends increasingly on how great the efforts of the farmers are for nature and animal welfare. The area premiums are falling.

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It is not the big hit that many environmentalists had dreamed of. But the new funding scenario is an introduction to the changeover. Farmers now have until 2027 to adapt. They also need them. The big challenge, the next final system change, in which the area may no longer play a role at all, comes afterwards.

Without social services there will probably be no more money. Such a paradigm shift has its price, also for customers. If you want good food, you have to be prepared to pay a reasonable price for it.

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