Forum for the Future of Agriculture

Over 200 stakeholders representing the Hungarian farming community & land owners, government, NGOs, and research institutes, gathered in Budapest, on June 3rd, at the first Regional Conference in the 2010 programme of the Forum for the Future Agriculture.

Held in conjunction with GOSZ, the Hungarian Grain Producers Organization, this Regional Conference focussed on the Challenges of Modern Food and Feed Production and took place just six months before Hungary takes over the EU Presidency.

The Conference represented the first opportunity for the newly appointed State Secretary at the Hungarian Ministry for Rural Development, György Czervan, to convey his thoughts on this important subject.

He made clear that it will be necessary to find new solutions to develop an agricultural strategy and argued that farming should become more sustainable and multifunctional. He also pointed to the forthcoming Hungarian presidency of the European Union and suggested that one of the main priorities will be water management. Mr. Czervan said that he would like to cooperate on this topic with other member states including neighbouring Poland that will succeed Hungary in the EU’s presidency.

Finally, the new State Secretary highlighted the importance of maintaining the Common Agriculture Policy and also pointed to the fact that Hungary has a long tradition in agricultural expertise and research and the country’s scientists will be on of Hungary’s most important assets in this respect.

The meeting was also addressed by Thierry de L’Escaille, Secretary-General of the European Landowners Organization, and Jethro Schiansky from the RISE Foundation who discussed the concept of the delivery of public goods by land managers and farmers. Both insisted that farmers and land managers need to be properly rewarded or incentivised to provide such environmental goods and services if the market itself will not pay. It was stressed that both the agricultural and environmental sectors needed to jointly make the case for a CAP budget commensurate to deal with global challenges that Europe must contribute to meeting also after 2013.

This was also a topic picked up by Professor Jozsef Popp from the Research Institute for Agricultural Economics, who emphasised the need for a broader environmental benefit to society to be delivered by the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy. He insisted that “In the CAP reform after 2013, a proper weight has to be given to food ecology and climate change.”

Representing Syngenta, one of the founding partners of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture, Mark Titterington argued that policies like the CAP have to lead to stable farm incomes and enable farmers to access the best available tools, technologies and training necessary for high performance agriculture and the delivery of social and environmental public goods and services.

The conference was followed by a trip to look at two industry-led initiatives on soil conservation and biodiversity. Rozalia Pecze from Syngenta presented the company’s MARGINS project which seeks to demonstrate how soil erosion can be reduced through minimum tillage and strategically placed and managed field margins or buffer strips. Given the heavy rains across Hungary in recent weeks the need to succeed in this endeavour was clear for all to see.

There was also a chance to see Operation Pollinator, which aims to boost pollinator populations through the cultivation and management of field margins which provide habitat and nutrition. The Hungarian component of Operation Pollinator forms part of a pan-European, multi-million euro effort by Syngenta to cultivate 10,000 hectares of dedicated field margin for pollinating insects over the next 5 years.

In conclusion, the arguments put forward during this FFA2010 Regional Conference, together with the field trip, has reinforced the need for food and environmental security to be addressed together at both EU and Member States and shows the benefits which can be delivered when this happens.

The FFA2010 programme now moves onto Moscow in September where the subject of Russian agriculture and its place in the world, will be addressed by delegates from the Russian Federation, the European Union, and beyond.

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