Young farmers feel “neglected and unrepresented” by EU farm lobby group, Copa-Cogeca

A NEW investigation by Lighthouse Reports has targeted the powerful European farming lobby Copa-Cogeca, which they say “is losing legitimacy even as it stymies the EU’s green agenda and hoovers up public funds”.

Copa-Cogeca has dominated the European Union’s agricultural policy for more than half a century, and on the strength of its history and claim to represent all farmers, it enjoys privileged access to the EU at all levels of its policy making.

Speaking to 8.9 TV News, Thin Lei Win, a co-author of the report, said “[Copa-Cogeca] claim that they represent more than 22m farmers and their families – and what that means is that politicians, NGOs, other lobby groups and bureaucrats listen to them and take what they say as what farmers want and need. This is important because the single largest budget item in the EU is the system of subsidies for farmers, the CAP.”

“Copa-Cogeca has a lot of power and sway in Brussels but they mostly represent the interests of large-scale, industrial, intensive farming groups – and not the small and medium sized farmers that actually make up the bulk of European agriculture. We found that their membership numbers are either opaque, unavailable or unreliable – it is no-where near 22m.”

The Lighthouse Reports’ investigation into the group includes interviews with nearly 120 farmers, insiders, politicians, academics and activists, as well as a survey of 50 Copa-Cogeca affiliates. It casts serious doubt on the lobby’s membership strength and legitimacy in the farming community. Smaller scale and younger farmers in particular said that they do not feel represented by Copa-Cogeca.

Lei Win said “A lot of the small farmers and young farmers that we spoke to feel neglected, unrepresented and disagreed with Copa-Cogeca’s positions in Brussels – and that includes being on of the biggest spoilers of European efforts to make farming more sustainable – they fought against a lot of environmental provisions under the CAP and also the Farm to Fork strategy, which is one of the cornerstones of the EU Green Deal. In practice, they have been fighting efforts to restore degraded areas, to halve pesticide use, and to link farm subsidies to environmental outcomes.

“Farmers and their representatives do need a seat at the table in Brussels but that is why it matters that Copa-Cogeca is only representing a small subset of farmers, because it affects the kinds of policies that are being implemented, which only benefit the few and not the many.

“This is especially worrying because European farming is in crisis – we have lost 3m farmers in 10 years, that’s 800 a day, and they are not being replaced – and all these multiple extreme weather events that Europe has been experiencing.

“Copa-Cegeca could help in this transition; could help farmers gain from being part of the change, but our investigation shows that that is not what they are doing.”

More information on the Lighthouse Reports website


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