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EU Agriculture Ministers on the protection of water sources and the impact of climate change on agriculture

Valletta, 23 May 2017 – The EU ministers responsible for agriculture met for an informal EU Council meeting under the Malta Presidency. The topic of the meeting was Climate Change and Water Resources in the EU: Emerging Challenges for Agriculture. The meeting was also attended by the Slovenian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Dejan Židan; in discussions he drew attention to the limited water resources saying: "more extensive irrigation will only be possible if new systems are more economical in water use, if agricultural technologies are adjusted and if agricultural production insurance becomes a common practice." In this context, he referred to the options considered regarding compulsory insurance for agricultural produce. "All these activities will influence the prices of agriculture products."


The EU ministers responsible for agriculture focused their discussion on sustainable water management in the context of agriculture and climate change. This topic is among the priority tasks of the Maltese Presidency; the discussion document underlined the need for an integrated approach to water management, highlighting the importance of water in agriculture and the impact of climate change on the availability of water resources. The Maltese Presidency drafted structured questions to direct the discussion.


Minister Židan agreed that climate change and water resources are emerging challenges for agriculture in the EU. He acquainted the Ministers with the impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector in Slovenia. "Last year, when our country was affected by frost that caused considerable damage, we thought that it was a once in a hundred years phenomenon; but disaster happened again this year and caused extensive damage to agriculture, the worst being in the fruit sector." In this context, Minister Židan asked what can be done to adapt to such disasters. "Irrigation and sprinkling can provide a response to these types of changes; currently, we have no other solution in hand." He underlined that it is imperative to realise that water sources are limited. "The irrigation systems must be not only more economic, but also affordable to farmers and agricultural holdings." Minister Židan was also convinced that additional knowledge and further research were required in this area. "The risks in agriculture have increased due to climate change and a comprehensive consideration of compulsory insurance would be therefore appropriate, but requires additional projections." He concluded by pointing out that the food prices would also increase due to the food production industry’s adjustment to climate change and in this context appropriate communication with consumers would be needed.




Water is of strategic importance to agriculture, food production, food security and sustainable development in general. In addition to the provision of the required quantities of water of adequate quality, the quality of soil is a precondition for agricultural production and food processing and preparation. In this respect, one should bear in mind that the agriculture sector is not the only consumer of water. Water is needed in energy production and industry and in other economic sectors. As regards food, health and decent life, a supply of clean drinking water and the arrangement of sanitary facilities are of fundamental importance. The right to food is a basic human right, just like the right to water. Slovenia accordingly adopted a decision last November to enshrine the right to water in its Constitution, thereby guaranteeing the sustainable provision of drinking water to the population and households, and protecting water sources from private interests as a public good managed by the state.


Climate change and forecasted scenarios of more frequent droughts, floods and other changes in farming conditions will have a significant impact on agricultural production. Access to water, control over water resources, and water pollution are issues that trigger numerous disagreements and conflicts at several levels. In this context, the development of strategic priorities and the pursuit of agricultural objectives pose a major challenge, requiring cooperation with other sectors. Investments in sustainable and resilient agriculture based on responsible use and preservation of water resources, land and forests (natural water reservoirs and filters) must ensure access to natural resources for food production for a growing world population, but must not endanger access to and the supply of clean drinking water to the population. Slovenia therefore supports the introduction of innovative and inclusive systems of water management which enable the stronger involvement of the agricultural sector and further the participation of all water consumers. It is also important in this respect to upgrade and improve the monitoring and control of water consumption. As regards water consumption in agriculture, investments in economical irrigation systems and innovations in the use of alternative water resources, such as wastewater from treatment plants, are of key importance. 


More measures from the Common Agricultural Policy must be adopted to strengthen the resilience of agriculture to climate change while ensuring swift response and adjustment to changed conditions regarding water available. These include the development of innovative solutions for insurance and other risk management measures. The increased participation of insurance companies and the relevant private sector is essential. As part of its agricultural policy Slovenia promotes a variety of measures aimed at efficient food production that burdens and adversely affects natural resources as little as possible, including efficient water management as one of the priorities. Thus, Slovenia encourages the construction and improvement of irrigation systems and better environmental performance of the agricultural sector (the green component) – plant diversification, the introduction of land devoted to organic farming, the preservation of environmentally sensitive permanent grasslands and biodiversity, the promotion of organic agriculture, farmland protection, and the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources (the Nitrates Directive).