Wednesday, December 7

The Government launches the National Irrigation Board in a scenario of empty reservoirs

The Council of Ministers approved this Tuesday the creation of two new initiatives: the National Irrigation Board and the Irrigation Sustainability Observatory. It has done so at the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and because it is part of the initiatives included in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, the European funds.

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All interested agents in the sector will participate in the National Irrigation Board: public administrations with powers in agriculture, irrigation communities, professional agricultural organizations, research organizations and environmental protection associations, among others, according to the Ministry. The public administrations responsible for water management and environmental assessment will also be present, given the fundamental importance of these policies in irrigation management.

Its purpose is to promote and facilitate cooperation, consultation, analysis and exchange of information between public administrations and the rest of the interested parties, to facilitate governance and the efficient development of irrigation policy in Spain. Likewise, it will take into account in particular the environmental requirements of application. A dialogue table that arrives in the fall with the emptiest reservoirs of this century.

“It did not exist, it was a hole to cover”, assured the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, at the press conference after the Council of Ministers. “More at a time like this,” he assumes. Over the next four years, the Government plans to invest, he has indicated, “2,130 million euros to make irrigation sustainable, both water technology and efficiency.” In addition, he assumes that the table will serve to “have an overview, with the irrigation communities and administrations.” In that table, also participates “the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge that, through the hydrographic basins, manages the volumes of water”.

A forum for analysis and debate

The table will be in charge, the Ministry lists, of acting as a forum for communication, analysis and debate on aspects related to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of irrigation in Spain. Also, to make proposals to increase energy efficiency, water saving and the digitization of farms and report on investment plans and regulations on irrigation. In addition, it will contribute to the coordination of the irrigation policy and the water management policy, and will propose and promote measures for the prevention or control of the environmental impacts derived from actions in the field of irrigation, as well as the design of good practices farms for the same purpose.

In parallel, there is the Irrigation Sustainability Observatory that will serve to provide objective and relevant information on irrigation for the benefit of producers, sector organizations and administrations. In addition, it will have to report on the evolution of the main indicators related to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of irrigated agriculture in Spain, to contribute to the transparency and confidence of society in general in this sector. The observatory will have its own website, which will be managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Advance CAP aid

Apart from this irrigation table, the Council of Ministers has approved other measures linked to the agricultural sector, such as advancing the funds of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Some funds that are anticipated to the autonomous communities so that they can be delivered to farmers and ranchers “when they are most needed”, Planas affirmed. In total, an advance of 2,800 million euros, of the total of 4,800 million euros that have to be settled by mid-2023.

“The advance has been increased from 50% to 70%. The aid represents 10% of agricultural income” received by more than 600,000 farmers and ranchers, affected by the impact on the sector of the war in Ukraine, for example, in the cost and scarcity of fertilizers.

On the other hand, the Council of Ministers has authorized the distribution among the autonomous communities of 135.4 million euros for the financing of different agricultural and livestock programs and a legislative package for the application of the Common Agricultural Policy (PAC) in the sector fruit and vegetable