Its defeat in Parliament was largely due to the opposition of her own political family, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), which has been on a mission to sink much of the Farm to Fork agenda, the agricultural part of the Green Deal, as the economic strife caused by Covid and the war in Ukraine pushed up energy costs and squeezed farmers’ incomes.
With four months to go until the EU election, the EPP is striving to present itself as a bastion of farmers’ interests to capture rural votes.
Greens and left-wing lawmakers, who spearheaded the negotiations on the SUR, ended up voting against the bill in plenary last November after it was watered down by the EPP in tandem with the far-right Identity and Democracy and European Conservatives and Reformists groups. The three right-wing groups pushed to weaken aspects of the law, including those aimed at protecting people in public areas from exposure to pesticides.
“What is not acceptable is politicizing this for electoral gain, using the suffering of the farmers for that purpose,” Iratxe García, the Spanish leader of the Socialists and Democrats faction said, addressing the EPP.
The EPP largely gutted a parallel Green Deal bill to restore swathes of Europe’s natural areas, though that legislation is still limping to the finish line.
In the Council, negotiations between national governments on the pesticide file have ground to a halt, even after the Spanish and Belgian EU presidencies proposed stripping the SUR of its most controversial elements and keeping only those that promote the uptake of safer alternatives to chemical pesticides.
Von der Leyen also said that a report on a consultation with farmers and environmental groups will be ready “by late summer” and will underpin the direction of the bloc’s future agricultural policy, which is currently based on disbursing giant subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy.