Which ecosystem services would you like to pay for? | opinion

The environmental foundation for supporting the food system is accelerated deterioration, and the situation tends to deteriorate with the climate crisis. Increased risk of land degradation, extreme drought, loss of biodiversity and the occurrence of mega-fires are just some of the consequences of climate change with enormous potential for the destruction of production capacity. As the process progresses, the entire Portuguese territory is becoming less resilient and agriculture will be one of the sectors hardest hit. The climate crisis requires the decarbonization of all economic activity, but some of its effects are already inevitable, which requires measures to adapt to the new climate.

In relation to agricultural production, in addition to improving the efficiency of the use of production factors (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.), reducing consumption and replacing it with ecological processes is essential. This reconciliation between agricultural activity and conservation of natural resources is only possible through the diversification of cultures with rotations and associations. It is biological diversity that gives adaptability, resistance to pests and diseases, but also to water scarcity, and enables the recycling of nutrients. This path is not possible due to concrete monocultures with landscape dimensions.

In a country where most of the agroforestry area and production is grown in extensive rain forage systems and the Mediterranean climate does not allow it, especially with the current climate projections, it is imperative to ensure that much of the area does not do so by the end of social and economic unsustainability, which would only exacerbate the already large territorial asymmetries.

The climate crisis requires the decarbonization of all economic activity, but some of its effects are already inevitable, which requires measures to adapt to the new climate.

Many agricultural and forestry operations are currently facing immense difficulties because the food and agroforestry market is not regulated at all. The large distribution chains have set up a cartel in which they set the desired prices and induce producers to often sell below production costs. And no matter how much national production is organized, it will always be small in relation to the strength of the multinational companies in sales. This is a problem that affects the whole of Portuguese agriculture, and which successive governments have never had the courage to solve.

A year ago, the Bloco de Esquerda proposed the urgent implementation of a Community directive in order, among other things, to combat unfair market practices. However, they were defeated by the PS and the law, which were no alternative. The Community deadline for implementation is May.

However, this problem does not affect everyone equally. It is more dramatic with extensive systems that are often rain-fed, with low production of food, but with enormous production of ecosystem services such as the conservation of biodiversity, landscape heritage or the protection of residential areas from fire. On February 3, the Left Bloc voted to vote in parliament on the proposal that the government take measures to increase the value of these products and evaluate and reward ecosystem services that serve the public interest through the production of species and indigenous races. They had failed, again with the votes against the PS and the right.

The State Budget Act 2020 provides 100 million euros for the payment of ecosystem services. The new CAP is also expected to contain millions of euros to be applied for this purpose under eco-regimes by 2027. If this money is not used to pay for ecosystem services provided by large scale production systems as well as native species and races, where do these parties intend to compete?