Europe needs a strong bioeconomy as part of the 21st century rejuvenation of our rural areas, according to the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.
The Commission’s proposal for the new CAP, running from 2021 to 2027, aims to make a much stronger contribution to the sustainable development agenda, he said.
"We are showing higher ambition and focusing more on results in relation to resource efficiency, environmental care and climate action and the Bioeconomy will play a key role in achieving these aims."
In the next EU budget, 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing €100 billion for Horizon Europe - the most ambitious research and innovation programme ever, he said, to build on the foundations of the bioeconomy.
"Of this, €10 billion is dedicated to the primary sectors including the bioeconomy: a real breakthrough."
Each Member State will be tasked with drawing up a CAP Strategic Plan to outline their targets and expected results according to nine key objectives, and the bioeconomy is one of these, he said.
"The bioeconomy, if we handle it correctly, can tick multiple boxes. It will boost the rural economy and contribute to the climate challenge, certainly. But beyond that, it will create new, integrated agricultural value chains, which will boost rural economic cohesion.
"And even more importantly, it will allow our farmers, foresters and other rural economic actors to lead from the front in finding solutions to problems affecting society at large. Working in the frontlines of our economic and climate transformation can generate a new sense of pride and belonging for rural communities.
"It will lead to high-quality jobs for our young rural citizens."
Citing existing projects across Europe, including where farmers are producing cardoon thistle on marginal land, which is a low input crop that grows under arid conditions and they get support from the CAP under agri-environmental measures. The seeds of the thistle can be used for producing oil, and the biomass from the plant can be used to obtain cellulose and hemicellulose, he said.
The refinery has been built on a deserted fossil-oil facility, making it an excellent example of the sustainable “re-industrialisation” of Europe, he said, while it also has a research centre working in close cooperation with national research institutes.
He also listed the Glanbia led 'AgriChemWhey' project that will receive €22m from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under Horizon 2020.
The project will take low value by-products from the dairy processing industry – excess whey permeate and delactosed whey permeate - and convert them into cost competitive, sustainable lactic acid.
Lactic acid can then be used in value-added bio-based products for growing global markets, including biodegradable plastics, bio-based fertiliser and minerals for human nutrition, he said.
Dividend for farmers
Farmers, he said, fully understand the urgency of the climate challenge, but they are ready and eager to play their part.
"But we have to give them the tools and structures to succeed, and we have to invest heavily in these same tools and structures."
The EU estimates that bio-based industries can generate up to one million new jobs by 2030, he said, while the bioeconomy will make a major contribution to meeting our renewable energy targets of 27pc in 2020 and 32pc in 2030.
"But there is still much work to do. At national level, despite the fact that the number of national bioeconomy strategies has been increasing, many Member States still remain without one."