Politics: Here’s how the federal government wants to make agriculture greener

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More ecological agriculture: the Federal Council decides on a paradigm shift – and no longer only empowers farmers

The Federal Council is pursuing ambitious goals: to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, to reduce food waste by three quarters and to enable the population to eat healthier.

The Federal Council wants to “support healthy and sustainable consumption”.

Image: Roger Grütter

The Federal Council published the report on “the future direction of agricultural policy” on Thursday, paving the way for the resumption of deliberations on agricultural policy 2022+ in the National Council and the Council of States. In its report, the Federal Council shows how Swiss agriculture and the food industry should evolve by 2050.

The approach

In its report, the Federal Council speaks for the first time explicitly of “agriculture and the food industry”. As a result, it not only empowers farmers and traders, but also starts with processing and consumption. “All these actors influence the food system”, explains Christian Hofer, director of the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG). All should therefore be “included in the reflections so that holistic solutions are possible”.

The goals

In the report, the Federal Council explains how it can achieve its vision of “food security through sustainability from production to consumption” by 2050. To this end, it sets the following objectives:

  • Of the degree of autonomy Switzerland should also be more than 50% after 2050.
  • the greenhouse gas emissions food production in 2050 is expected to be at least 40 percent below 1990 levels. Greenhouse gas emissions from food consumption must be reduced by two-thirds.
  • the nutrition of the Swiss population is healthy and regional. Per capita greenhouse gas emissions from consumption are at least two-thirds below 2020 levels.
  • the food losses in production, processing, trade and consumption must be reduced by three quarters.
  • the labor productivity of farmers will increase by 50% compared to 2020.
  • The agricultural and food industry uses new environmentally friendly and resource-saving methods technologies.

Breakouts

In order to achieve the defined objectives, the federal government defines four axes – rather vaguely formulated. He wants to ensure that the production bases, i.e. water and soil, are used sparingly and that “the impact of climate change is countered by anticipatory action”. In addition, the Federal Council wants to promote “climate-friendly, animal-friendly and environmentally friendly food production”. This includes expanding renewable energy on farms and in production facilities as well as reducing nutrient losses.

Another axis is the strengthening of the creation of sustainable value. For the Federal Council, this means, on the one hand, a reduction in the administrative workload and, on the other hand, an improvement in the competitiveness of agriculture. Finally, the Federal Council also wants to start with consumption: it wants to educate consumers about the effects of food on the climate and animal welfare and provide more information on products. It is also examined to what extent the costs at the expense of the environment can be passed on to the effective price. These measures aim to guarantee the population a healthier and more balanced diet while reducing food waste.

Implementation

In its report, the Federal Council lists concrete measures to be implemented. Among other things, it proposes the following changes:

  • At degree of autonomy to maintain, crops intended for direct human food must be grown on arable land. Permanent grassland – which represents more than half of the agricultural area – is intended for the production of milk and meat, with dairy production being favored for reasons of efficiency. This is the reaction of the Federal Council to the fact that less than 40% of arable land in Switzerland is currently used for the production of human food, while at the same time imports of animal feed have almost doubled over the past of the last twenty years.
  • “The nutrition of the Swiss population is unbalanced and associated with a large ecological footprint,” writes the Federal Council in the report. He therefore calls on Mr. and Mrs. Schweizer to follow the recommendations of the food pyramid in the future. Concretely, this means less meat, alcohol and sweets, more fruits, vegetables and dairy products. This means that the environmental impact of consumption can be cut in half, according to the report.
  • The Federal Council wants them nutrient flow optimize and significantly reduce nutrient losses. He sees a need for action, particularly with regard to nitrogen. He has already created a basis for this with the pesticide reduction pathway. This stipulates that nitrogen losses in agriculture will decrease by 20% by 2030. This is to prevent nutrient losses from exceeding the ecological carrying capacity.
  • In order to prevent the sustainability efforts of Swiss agriculture from being destroyed by the import of food from abroad, the Federal Council wants to campaign internationally for a ” agricultural trade and promoting the importation of sustainably produced goods”.

The nutritional recommendations of the Swiss Society of Nutrition.

The nutritional recommendations of the Swiss Society of Nutrition.

Image: BLV

The timetable

The Federal Council intends to implement its strategy in three stages. In order to reduce the ecological footprint as a first step, Parliament and the Federal Council have already decided on measures within the framework of the parliamentary initiative “Reducing the risk associated with the use of pesticides”. Secondly, the 2022+ agricultural policy must be adopted. The Federal Council recommends that Parliament avoid certain topics in the PA22+ and focus on economic and social aspects, since many ecological aspects are already part of the first stage. Next Monday, the Economic Committee of the Council of States will debate the bill for the first time since its suspension. According to the Federal Office for Agriculture, if the parliament approves the AP22+, it could come into force on January 1, 2025. From 2030, in a third stage, new measures must be developed to make the food system and trade even more sustainable.

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