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EU eco-agriculture reforms are 'not worth it', say Belgian farmers

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By Euronews
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EU eco-agriculture reforms are 'not worth it', say Belgian farmers
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Belgian farmers say that the European Union's new eco-schemes for agriculture, aimed as an incentive to undertake practices beneficial for the environment, are simply not worth it.

With reform of the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy now underway, farmers are being encouraged to be greener through premiums which are handed out by Brussels to those that practice more environmentally friendly farming.

But in Belgium, some farmers are already saying it is too much and too fast.

"For me, it's going much too fast and I'm not prepared for it. Yes, they explain it to us, but we need measures," Belgian farmer Dominique Lebrun told Euronews.

"We need to put it all in place and it's a lot of changes, with budgets that are being cut back significantly. For our farm, we lose €10,000 from one year to the next.

"And we have compensation with the eco-regimes but the compensation will never make up for the loss of €10,000 because we will have lower yields and no one will pay us for the yields."

To obtain these premiums, farmers can do things like enhance the value of grasslands for their carbon storage role, reduce phytosanitary products and set up fallow land for biodiversity.

The eco-schemes will represent 25% of direct aid to producers from 2023 onwards.

Isabelle Jaumotte from the Walloon Federation of Agriculture told Euronews the scheme is commendable but too abrupt, however.

"What is problematic in the way it has been conceptualised is this way of making something compulsory by saying: it is voluntary and we are going to bring the farmers in," Jaumotte said. "Once again, they are being brought in too abruptly...I don't know who today would agree to say: I'm spending a quarter of my salary on doing something good for the environment. I honestly don't know."

Jaumotte also points out that the sector has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% over the last 30 years, so motivation to become greener is there, but in practice, it is much more difficult.