BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — The European Commission plans to invest substantively, create synergies and work strategically to ensure that 2023 is not defined as a year of challenges but instead seen as a year of action, Janusz Wojciechowski, agriculture commissioner for the European Commission, told participants at the opening of the EU AgriResearch Conference taking place May 31 in Brussels.
“This year’s conference comes at a pivotal moment,” Wojciechowski said. “We are almost half-way through 2023; the year is still being shaped and defined.”
He cited the continuing war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as droughts across Europe and floods in Italy as factors contributing to the challenging environment.
Funding will play a key role in the EC’s action steps. Wojciechowski said the EC has allocated approximately 9 billion euros of its Horizon Europe budget to agricultural research and innovation between 2021 and 2027.
“That is almost double the allocation of the last programming period,” he said. “I believe this is exceptional, considering the global trend of decreased public investment in agricultural research and innovation.”
The investment already has led to groundbreaking innovation, he said, including a new technology to produce a low-cost, low-carbon fertilizer.
A second action step centers on creating synergies, which Wojciechowski said will involve partnerships between EU Member States, the private sector, foundations and other stakeholders.
“On a global level, we are building alliances to learn from each other and address our challenges together,” he explained. “For instance, we are about to launch a new global initiative to advance cooperation in research and innovation for the conservation and sequestration of soil carbon.”
Through the partnerships resources are being pooled to create a range of funding opportunities, including efforts to accelerate agro-ecology and unlocking the potential of data in agriculture, he said.
He also said the EC is creating synergy between its different policies. As an example, he pointed to its research policy that now is programmed and implemented within the CAP, with clear and positive impacts for farmers, researchers and citizens.
Finally, the EC is taking a long-term strategic approach to agricultural research and innovation.
“At the center of this approach are farmers, foresters and rural communities,” Wojciechowski said. “We do not simply undertake scientific research for them, but also with them. We have invested billions of euro across hundreds of multi-actor projects, testing solutions on the ground, in farms, fields, and forests.
“This approach is at the heart of the Soil Deal for Europe, our research and innovation mission to improve soil health. Since 2021, we have directed 300 million euros toward the objectives of our mission, and by 2030, we aim to establish a network of 100 living labs and lighthouses to develop solutions for healthy soils in real-life conditions.
“We are also developing a harmonized framework for soil monitoring in Europe and raising public awareness about the vulnerability and vital importance of soils.”
The task of meeting the aforementioned challenges “will defeat us, or define us,” Wojciechowski said. “The choice is ours.”
“If we choose to deny accountability, leave the work to others, and focus on the fears and uncertainties of the future, then we will meet with failure,” he said. “But if we choose to take responsibility for our actions; to listen, share ideas and work together; and to drive the possibilities of knowledge, innovation and skills towards the potential of the future, then I firmly believe we shall find a path to success.”
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