The Commission’s proposal will now need to be approved by EU countries and the European Parliament.
The Commission also announced that EU farmers will be exempted from green farming measures that require them to set aside part of their land to foster biodiversity.
The move follows pressure from France and comes ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Brussels on Thursday, where he’ll meet with top EU officials on the sidelines of the special European Council to argue against a trade deal with the Mercosur group of Latin American countries.
Under the relaxed green rules on agriculture, farmers will be able to continue receiving subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy budget by growing cash crops and nitrogen-fixing crops on the set-aside land, provided they don’t use pesticides there.
Farmers were granted an exemption from the requirements in 2023, but the Commission previously said it was not legally possible to introduce a similar measure for this year.
Backlash against the green rules, which require at least 4 percent of land to be set aside for conservation, has become a common theme of the protests spreading across the EU, prompting the Commission to become more open to a workaround.
Brussels’ decision to allow crops to be grown on fallow land in 2023 was widely criticized, including by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and environmental groups, which noted that little food was being grown for human consumption on this land.
Instead, it was used to grow animal feed, such as corn and soy, as well as sunflowers.