Ukraine, a major agricultural country, joining the EU would result in the “death” of family farming, Germany’s farmers’ union has warned, amid growing concerns about the future direction of the EU’s farm subsidy scheme.

Following the European Commission’s recommendation last week to open formal accession talks with Ukraine, Joachim Rukwied, president of the German Farmers Union (DBV), warned of its consequences for the agricultural sector.

Accession will “lead to the collapse of family farming in Europe”, he told a press conference on the future of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on Wednesday (November 15th).

This should “remain in the background of all political discussions,” he added.

Rukwied pointed to Ukraine’s large agricultural sector and the fact that the average farm in the country is several times larger than in the EU.

Accession would therefore mean “the integration into the EU of an agricultural sector with completely different structures, up to holdings of the order of several 100,000 hectares”, he stressed.

In this context, he argued that a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that would include Ukraine is “unfeasible” unless it is at the expense of farms in current EU countries.

The position paper for the next CAP, 2028-2034, presented by the union on Wednesday, was based on the current state of the EU and not an enlarged EU, according to Rukwied – even though the EU has said that (Ukraine) will be ready for inclusion by 2030.

Indeed, there is a broad consensus among political representatives and organizations that the CAP could not continue in its current form if Ukraine were to join the Union.

In particular, so-called direct payments, which are paid to farms per hectare of agricultural land, would probably not be economically viable for large areas of Ukraine.

However, unlike the DBV, the German Ministry of Agriculture, for example, has pushed to use the impending accession as an opportunity to radically reform the CAP and move away from largely unconditional area payments.

Several German states, as well as environmental organizations and representatives of organic and small-scale farming, have also come out in favor of preparing EU agricultural funds for Ukraine’s accession.

Meanwhile, the government in Kiev argues that Ukraine’s accession will strengthen the EU’s agricultural sector and make the Union a global player in agriculture.

Moreover, a recent study by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies concluded that the Ukrainian agricultural sector will not become a “bottomless barrel” for the CAP because it is competitive without large subsidies – but at the same time, in some ways, “overcompetitive” in compared to other EU countries.

“In fact, thanks to fertile black soil and cheap labor, Ukrainian agriculture produces so efficiently that it is serious competition for many EU countries, as the dispute over Ukrainian grain exports to Poland and Hungary shows,” reports study.

Rukwied, on the other hand, warned that Ukraine would join the EU “as a country whose agriculture produces far below our standards, for example, in terms of pesticide use” and would therefore unfairly compete with farms of other EU countries.

Therefore, Ukraine will have to transpose all EU standards into its national law before joining the Union.