Kirjoitin Pan-Eurooppa instituutin pyynnöstä maataloustukiaiheisen kolumnin heidän Baltian, Puolan ja Luoteis-Venäjän talouskatsaukseen. Katsaus jaetaan noin 10 000 organisaatiolle, jotka toimivat 80 valtiossa.

The Baltic Sea needs reform of European Union agricultural subsidies

The Baltic Sea is a unique marine ecosystem. There are nine coastal countries and millions of people who consider it as their own sea. But Baltic Sea is now one of the most threatened marine ecosystems on the planet due to overfishing, unsustainable shipping practices, industrial and urban wastewater and agricultural run-off.

One of the most serious difficulty is the eutrophication. Eutrophication is a process where water receives excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth. This enhanced plant growth, often called an algal bloom, reduces dissolved oxygen in the water. This affects the whole ecosystem. About 80% of all nutrients in the sea come from land-based activities, including sewage, industrial and municipal waste and agricultural run-off.

According to the recent study by Fredrik Wulff, professor in Marine Systems Ecology in Stockholm University, the pollution to the Baltic Sea has been diminished for the first time. The pollution has been diminishing in almost every country. There was only one exception: the pollution from Finland hasn't been decreasing. On the contrary, it has increased.

European Union is preparing a strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. Agricultural subsidies should be included into this strategy. EU agricultural subsidies were launched for two reasons. They aimed to work as an income subsidies and as an environmental subsidies. Nowadays they are ineffective as an environmental subsidies. System is also bureaucratic and expensive. The administration of the system takes over the half of the whole costs of the agricultural supervision, almost 30 million euros per year.

We need to differentiate the drainage basin area of the Baltic Sea from the agricultural subsidies. The subsidies for the drainage basin of the Baltic Sea should be addressed especially for sloping seacoast fields. It is known that the biggest problems are the fields of gradient level more than 6 %.

It is essential to address the agricultural subsidies to specific operations. A good example of this kind of actions is the Finnish TEHO project (2008-2010). TEHO project is focused on agricultural water protection issues in southwest Finland. The primary sources of the project funding are the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Ministry of the Environment. Southwest Finland Regional Environment Centre and two regional unions of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners are taking care of the implementation. The project takes place in Southwest Finland with around 12 000 farms and 20 % of Finnish arable land. The project is concentrated in four more defined areas characterized by intensive crop production agriculture and/or animal husbandry.

The farmers' knowledge and skills are vital and they will be utilized in the project as well as local environmental conditions, farm resources and prevailing practices are taken into account. The aim is to find farm-specific, the most suitable water protection measures, in close co-operation with farmers and to develop environmental protection handbook for the use of the farm.

As well known, changes in agricultural practices is reflected to the water quality with a delay, which complicates environmental impact assessment. Automatic water quality sensor stations are established in order to monitor effects on waters. Moreover, effectiveness of measures will be estimated using modeling. The results, conclusions and experience will be utilized in the preparation of the third Agri-Environmental Program in Finland (2014 -).

And finally.

We don't have much time to wait for these changes in the agricultural subsidies from EU. Especially the new member states as Poland should be able to minimize the run-off from their fields before their agriculture has been changed into intensive and massive farming systems instead of smaller family farming.

The climate change may shorten period of frozen soil and increase precipitation during winters, which leads to more run-off waters from the fields also in the winter time. This is probably the reason why the Finnish figures look bad in the recent research. Because of this it is even more important than earlier to have something growing on the fields all year around near the rivers. For example energy plants would be a good solution for these difficult areas. So we need a quick change in the financial subsidies to the agriculture in the Baltic Sea area if we want to save our sea.

Janina Andersson
Member of the Finnish Parliament (the Greens)