Organic farmers are also suffering from drought
by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)
- Organic farmers are as affected by the current drought as conventional farmers.
- The situation varies from region to region and from farm to farm.
- The weather is predicted to remain dry until mid-September.
- Harvest losses must be expected, especially for cereals and potatoes.
- Organic cattle farmers and milk producers are running short of feed for their cows.
- The German Farmers' Association has demanded immediate aid of one billion euros from the federal and state governments for the drought-stricken farmers.
- Grain farmers would have to wait until the official harvest estimate in August.
- Associations demand a restructuring of agriculture
Organic farmers are as affected by the current drought as their conventional colleagues. The situation varies from region to region and from farm to farm. Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, Chairman of the association Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW, English: Federation of Organic Food Industry), said: “To prevent even more farmers from having to give up, help is needed for drought-stricken farms in acute need.” However, agriculture also needs to be restructured just as urgently.
Since May it has hardly rained any more in many parts of Germany as well as in other European countries. The North and the East of the republic are particularly affected, while there was more rain in the South - but still less than usual. Fruit growers and winegrowers are satisfied with the dry and sunny weather and expect good yields. On the other hand, the outlook for cereal growers and livestock farmers is poor, especially as it is expected to remain dry until mid-September. The German Farmers' Association expects grain harvests amounting to 36 million tons, 12 million tons less than the average of the last five years.
For many organic cows the feed is scarce
As organic farming promotes the build-up of humus, organic soil is more capable of holding water in dry periods. However, with months of drought, this advantage no longer helps. Organic cattle farmers and milk producers are particularly affected. Most of their cow’s feed has to come from their own farms. But the grass hardly grows back on the pastures and the forage for the winter is missing in the barns. Farmers have to buy organic food, but even this is scarce and expensive. The Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (AMI, Engl.: Agricultural Market Information Society) expects dairy farms in the North and East to “sort out their herds and start bringing dairy cows to slaughter earlier than planned.” Meat producers would sell more calves to conventional feedlots due to a lack of feed. Already at the beginning of July, AMI wrote about organic cereals, that some farmers in the North “expect that they will only harvest 50 to 60% of what they get from the field in normal years.” However, the condition of the stocks is very location-dependent. Things look similarly bad in Lower Saxony, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt.
The long drought will also lead to losses in organic potatoes, at least in fields that are not irrigated, AMI estimates. In addition, the potato beetle has spread so widely this year that the few permitted biological herbicides such as neem leaf extract were sold out. In vegetable production, the drought affects species growing on larger fields that are not being irrigated, such as carrots, onions or cabbage.
"Simply carrying on as before - and hoping for support in the event of damage - that won't be enough!"
– German Federation of Organic Food Industry (BÖLW)
The German Farmers' Association has demanded immediate aid of one billion euros from the federal and state governments for drought-stricken farmers. German Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner called on the (legally competent) federal states to submit aid programs for cattle farmers. Moreover, she signalled that they should support them quickly and, if necessary, to raise the aids. Grain farmers will have to wait until the official harvest estimate in August. Since the damage varies greatly from region to region in Germany, the federal government needs “valid figures and data”, the Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted the minister. She did not comment on a possible amount of money.
It is too easy to demand state aid now, says the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL, Engl.: Working Group for Rural Agriculture). “What can help farms quickly are fair producer prices for our farm work and for our healthy food”, writes the board of AbL. The working group called on farmers' organisations, product purchasers and the food retail trade “to enter into negotiations very soon and to set a very clear signal for fair producer prices.
Associations call for a restructuring of agriculture
“It is now important for the drought-stricken farms that they are shown solidarity”, writes the BÖLW. In addition to emergency aid, the landlords could alleviate the difficult situation of the farms by lowering lease prices. The federal government could set a good example with its Bodenverwertungs- und -verwaltungs GmbH (BVVG, Engl.: Soil utilization and management company) as the largest landlord in eastern Germany.
The BÖLW stresses that agriculture must adapt in order to become more resistant to the effects of climate change. “Simply carrying on as before - and hoping for support in the event of damage - that won't be enough!” Agriculture, as the cause of climate damage, must also significantly reduce its greenhouse gas footprint. BÖLW sees organic agriculture as a pioneer here.
The growers' association Demeter wrote that it supported demands for financial aid for farmers who have to cope with crop losses of more than 30% due to the drought. Alexander Gerber, chairman of the board, called for the EU's agricultural subsidies finally to be used for the restructuring of agriculture towards greater sustainability.
For the environmental association WWF, the heat records are “also the result of climate policy failures on the part of the German government”. It has to initiate the return to a consistent climate protection policy with an immediate program.
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