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Evaluation support study on the impact of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) on sustainable management of soil

When people want to gain time, they commission studies, research, and analysis. A lot depends on who carries out these activities. Nevertheless, the results can be useful in order to understand if and how to proceed. The report on the Evaluation of the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on the sustainable management of soil acquires particular importance, in this period of discussion of the CAP, both for the CAP itself and for the development of a new European strategy for the soil.

Who was behind this study? The Agriculture DG of the European Commission, directly. Who was it entrusted to? To the Alliance Environment European Economic Interest Group: over 20 people worked on the analysis and editing. The study considers the various regulations of the CAP since 2014 and carried out assessments in farming areas of 10 EU Member States.

In short, the report seems to us to have a solid scientific base and to have chosen the elements for evaluation well. The final result is quite clear: despite their potential, the tools of the CAP have not supported or protected the productivity and fertility of the soil. The report runs to almost 150 pages: here are a few of its typical conclusions.

Only a few of the activities necessary for soil protection are enforced at EU level. Furthermore, key activities, such as controlled traffic, no/reduced/late tillage, diversified crop rotation and compost application, as well as the limitation of plot size are in no cases enforced by the EU regulation; i.e. vulnerable areas in terms of soil quality (or susceptibility to erosion) do not benefit from specific provisions set at EU level.

Looking at the decisions by Member States and managing authorities to implement instruments and measures fostering activities for sustainable soil management, the study found that soil quality was given less importance than other environmental concerns (i.e. biodiversity and water, which benefit from legally binding EU objectives and dedicated institutions or services). This level of priority given to addressing soil quality seems to result mostly from the level of awareness among national and local authorities of the threats to soil and of their possible consequences. The absence of decrease in the growth nitrogen balance since 2010 suggests that the recent implementation of the CAP did not succeed in providing an additional contribution to the effect that previous policies had on reducing the use of fertilisers. The impact of the CAP measures and instruments on soil compaction and salinisation remains very limited, as no instrument clearly addressed those issues.

Looking at storms, droughts, fires and soil sealing as other factors that may impact soil quality, it can be observed that those events may impact very large areas and may thus very significantly impact soil quality in comparison to the impact that can be expected from the CAP. It is also important to note that degraded and bare soils are more affected by storms and droughts than sustainably managed soils, and that the frequency of extreme natural events is expected to increase in the future: this suggests the CAP measures and instruments need to scale up to counterweight, as much as possible, the effects of these events.

The needs to limit erosion, to increase carbon content in mineral soils, to protect grasslands and to ensure the maintenance of their carbon content are explicitly addressed in the CAP framework. However, the rules set at EU level are not very ambitious, and the CAP contribution to mitigate those soil threats thus depend on implementation choices taken at the level of Member States or regions.

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Comitato Cittadino di San Giorgio a Cremano (Naples)

Francesco Russo, as representative of the Comitato Cittadino di San Giorgio a Cremano, has belonged to SIP at the national level for a long time.

The Committee follows and takes part in initiatives to protect the environment, the soil and land in particular. A very active core group is concerned with training young people. This led to the creation several years ago of the Università Popolare Paesi Vesuviani, headed up by Russo, which is engaged in professional training and offers the knowledge and skills needed to operate in the area of international importing and exporting for businesses offering goods and services, as well as marketing strategies for emerging economies in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. The main focus is imports and exports in the agri-food sector. Many of the teachers are managers from the big shipping companies who share their experience, understanding of practical operations, theoretical and practical knowledge and competencies, leading to employment opportunities in the sectors of marketing, international business and tourism.

Contact details: Università Popolare Paesi Vesuviani
Via E. A. Mario 6
80046 San Giorgio a Cremano (NAPOLI) Email: unisangiorgio@virgilio.it e Saverio.france.russo@gmail.com

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Public consultations by the Environment DG on the Soil and Forest strategies

We have two unmissable opportunities to make our aims and ambitions known at European level on two important environmental subjects: the soil and forests.

The European Commission’s Environment DG has launched two public Consultations in advance of drawing up these two strategies: the one for Forests on 29 January, closing on 19 April, that on the soil on 2 February with a closing date of 27 April 2021.

This is an opportunity to take a step froward in defining both strategies.

The consultations are multilingual and the questionnaires are based on specific proposals for possible actions to include in the strategies. The fact that they are in multiple choice format enables the very high number of expected replies (maybe tens of thousands) to be dealt with automatically to produce statistical results. The content of the strategies can be deduced from the questions.

We invite all our readers to take the time to respond, for which it is necessary to register first (open also to UK people).

Here are the details:

NEWS ARTICLE | 2 FEBRUARY 2021

Commission consults on new EU Soil Strategy

The European Commission has launched an online public consultation on the development of a new EU Soil Strategy.

Consultation: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12634-Healthy-soils-new-EU-soil-strategy/public-consultation

NEWS ARTICLE | 29 JANUARY 2021

Commission consults on new EU Forest Strategy

As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has launched an online public consultation on the development of a new EU Forest Strategy.

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Associazione di Promozione sociale e culturale 5 agosto 1991, Buscate (Milan)

We return with renewed enthusiasm to the task of presenting to readers the Associations that belong to the Gruppo Suolo Europa.

Buscate (in the province of Milan) is home to the Associazione di Promozione sociale e culturale 5 agosto 1991, which was set up in 2010 to preserve the memory of the historic battle against the landfill that the Lombardy Region wanted to set up at the quarry known as Cava San Antonio in Buscate, a fight that began on 5 August 1991 and ended in victory three years later. The Association, together with the Ecoistituto del Veneto, has contributed to the publication of ‘Quelli delle cause vinte‘ [Those who won the battles] (Michele Boato ed. Libri di Gaia). From the outset the Association has concerned itself not only with the (still unresolved) matters relating to the environmental restoration of the Cava San Antonio – now called the Cava Campana – but also with many other environmental problems locally and in the Altomilanese (the area to the north-west of Milan) more generally. In particular we should mention the Quarries Plan of the Metropolitan City of Milan, the ACCAM Incinerator in Busto Arsizio (Va), a pleasant place about 2 km from the centre of Buscate, the pollution of the Ticino river and the Naviglio Grande, and the Cava di Casorezzo. In addition, in 2020 the Association proudly rescued from felling a 130-year-old Deodar Cedar, getting it declared an ancient tree and ensuring its adoption.

Another of the Association’s areas of interest and initiatives has been connected with the safeguarding of the town’s architectural and artistic heritage (Villa Rosales-Abbiate) and most recently the history of the “biblical” emigration that affected the Altomilanese at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, with the publication of two books about emigration to the USA (Mi a vo via – translated into English with the title I’am going away) and Argentina (La Mérica di frascuni).

The Association has had links to the SIP Forum for several years, supporting the proposal for the Parco dell’Altomilanese and the draft law on ending soil consumption. At the local level, in 2013 the Association made submissions to the local Territorial Governance Plan based on the idea of “zero consumption” of the soil.

Contact: Associazione 5 agosto 1991 -Via Madonna del Carmine,11 – 20010 Buscate (Mi)

Email: cinqueagosto91@yahoo.it

Mob. 340 902 1566 – 3357461614

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Study Seminar held on 24/9/2020 now available on YouTube

The recording of the SIP Forum’s study seminar on the “Caring for soil is caring for life” report by the group of experts appointed by the Research and Innovation Directorate of the European Commission is now available in its entirety on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cVg1CLdSpIw

For ease of viewing, it is possible to watch the various different sections by clicking on them directly, as shown on our website.

Below are the different sections of the recording:

Individual sections are also accessible via the playlist created on YouTube.

The GSE is also working on obtaining a written transcription of the seminar, which will be made available also on the site.

The study seminar was held in Italian, but YouTube allows you to select automatic translation into English, by using Settings on the page of the recording.

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The soil – a solution for the climate crisis as well (UK)

We need solutions and positive signs. It is hard for soil researchers and farmers to convey their knowledge to the general public. A non-farmer has succeeded! Josh Toussaint-Strauss, a journalist at the Guardian, explains the soil “problem” in a 7 minute video released in July 2019. The video briefly mentions definitions and problems, but it also provides possible solutions and opportunities. At a time of pandemic and negativity it is a pleasure to see that maybe we can succeed.

The video, available only in English, deserves to be shown and explained to children, even little ones.

Having seen the video, it is much easier to understand the call to action of the Sustainable Soils Alliance – UK, which identifies 8 policy points that governments should follow in order to leave healthy soils for the coming generations. These are the titles; the full call to action is attached below.

  1. Long-term strategy, 2. Economic impact, 3. Monitoring, 4. Measures to promote practical and financial incentives, 5. Pollutant reduction, 6. Innovation & Tools, 7. Education & Training, 8. Collaboration.

https://sustainablesoils.org/8-soil-policy-asks

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Webinar on the soil

An online study seminar of the SIP Forum took place on 24 September between 7pm and 9pm, on the report on the soil by the Board tasked by the European Commission’s RTD. The report’s title is ‘Caring for soil is caring for life‘.

An explanation of the report’s content was followed by a critical analysis of the document. The seven invited speakers were representatives of the building industry, planning, research, youth, construction and organic farming, and an MEP. In the open and frank discussion that followed, despite the limitations of the format, various elements emerged. Overall the impression of the report is a positive one that opens the way to various important considerations. While appreciation for the report was unanimous, at the same time the necessary elements were identified for it to inform both European research programmes and the new European directive on the soil (which is in progress). For example the following elements need to be considered: how to put into practice citizen participation and involvement; how to interconnect effectively the protection of the soil and the other EU initiatives on environment, climate, biodiversity etc.; a clear and firm position needs to be taken on halting the consumption of fertile land; preventing land hoarding by gangs of  criminals or speculators; the use of fiscal measures to discourage the consumption of non-renewable resource, with adaptations for different member states;  encouragement of the reversal of soil sealing and renaturalization .

These initial points underline the complexities that we are facing and that need to be further clarified. The debate leads to other conclusions and above all that a future European directive on the soil cannot be assigned to a limited number of  participants, but must be the outcome of open discussion among all those who use the soil in different ways, including those who use it without thinking about it. This meeting should therefore be regarded as an initial seminar for study and analysis that should be quickly followed by other initiatives that widen participation to other speakers and to other EU member states.

It is the Forum’s intention, through its working group on the European dimension, to produce a detailed report on the presentations that can be distributed beyond the membership of the Forum itself. A recording of the meeting will also shortly be made available on the internet.