Extensive livestock farming and climate change should be understood as a binomial: while the former is part of the solution to the problems caused by climate change, the latter affects and threatens the viability of a production model characterised precisely by its sustainability and its ability to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Extensive livestock farming based on permanent meadow and pasture contributes favourably to maintaining landscapes as well as "environmental services", such as the protection of biodiversity and habitats, carbon sequestration, and the prevention of forest fires, which limits the impact of floods and prevents soil erosion. It also ensures the population is maintained in rural areas by contributing to generational renewal and the viability of family farms.
On the other hand, it helps to shape the identity of European society by preserving age-old land management practices and promoting culture and rural tourism. A good example of this can be seen in the production of traditional crafts and foodstuffs, ethnobotany and the use of sheepdogs to manage livestock.
The role of extensive livestock farming and organic fertilisers in providing sustainable, healthy, safe and excellent food is key, particularly with a growing world population. Moreover, this form of livestock farming is able to produce food by using local natural resources: mountain areas, pastures, marginal land, areas that are difficult to cultivate, etc. This type of farming is complementary to the other types of farming.
The use of organic fertilisers plays a key role in maintaining soil fertility. In particular, the addition of organic matter contributes to the renewal and replacement of a substantial fraction of the soil's nutrients by improving the water retention capacity and thus the structural stability of the soil.
Policy decisions should provide for differentiated and favourable treatment for the extensive livestock farming and organic fertiliser model. This should entail the implementation, within the national CAP strategic plans, of assistance and tools that are equipped with the necessary budget allocation. It is also necessary to have greater flexibility in the criteria used for determining and identifying areas of pasture that are eligible for support, taking into account the wide diversity of pastures and forests in Europe. Special attention should also be paid to the considerable potential of biogas production plants to reduce methane emissions through the digestion of slurry and manure, thereby enhancing circularity and fostering the development of the rural and local bioeconomy.
It is therefore key, at all levels, to safeguard extensive farming systems, ensuring fair prices for producers as well as strong institutional and civil society support. In this regard, it is advisable to pay attention to the importance of food labelling schemes in promoting and supporting the consumption of more sustainable food products.
This inevitably requires a greater effort in terms of communication as well as the projection of a more positive, value-enhancing image that genuinely shows society, consumers and the public as a whole the benefits of extensive livestock farming and organic fertilisers, not only in environmental terms but also from a social and economic point of view.