Greening review, Luke Ming Flanagan

The 2013 CAP reform introduced a strong greening component into the first pillar of the CAP for the first time.  This ensures that all EU farmers in receipt of support go beyond the requirements of cross compliance and deliver environmental benefits as part of their everyday activities. Thirty percent of direct payments are now linked to greening, which means for farmers following agricultural practices beneficial to climate and the environment, mainly maintenance of permanent pastures, crop diversification, and ecological focus areas (EFA). Organic farming automatically benefits from this payment, while farmers in Natura 2000 areas will have to comply with the relevant requirements to the extent that they are consistent with the Natura 2000 legislation.

These new measures were subject to a review after year one of application as part part of the CAP simplification agenda undertaken by Commissioner Hogan and Commission REFIT exercise

The Review aims to

  • Provide a fine-tuning of current rules, especially for EFAs, to make them easier to understand and implement by both farmers and administration.
  • Improve the environmental performance of the policy.
  • Specify and/or clarify what is required from farmers and national administrations, especially as regards landscape features.
  • Removal of burdensome technical requirements without lowering the environmental benefits.
  • Provide more flexibility or alternatives where this increases the environmental and climate benefits of the greening.
  • Harmonize some requirements.

Some of the key measures to increase flexibilities are,

  • Land lying fallow definition, Common minimum duration of 6 months for a given calendar year.
  • Removal of deadline for sowing catch crops or green cover.
  • Common minimum duration of 8 weeks for catch crops and green cover.
  • Adjustment of the list of species for under sowing (allowing leguminous.)
  • Allowing mixture of seeds for Nitrogen Fixing Crops (NFC).
  • Merging of certain landscape features, trees in line, hedges and buffer strips.
  • More flexibility for the qualification of landscape features.
  • Ban of the use of pesticides on productive EFA area nitrogen fixing crops, catch crops and green cover, land lying fallow and strips along forests.

The one element of this package causing disquiet is the ban on pesticides on EFA’s.  However, the use of pesticides in ecological focus areas is diametrically opposed to the intention of greening agricultural policy.  Biodiversity is not an optional add-on to farming, but a vital component, 84% of the world’s crop diversity relies on insect pollination and almost all crops benefit from natural pest control services.  A range of recent research projects with commercial growers in the UK, The Netherlands and Switzerland, where low-maintenance flowering field margins were created to specifically target beneficial pollinators and natural pest control services through the choice of appropriate non-crop vegetation, show that farmers can significantly increase yields in adjacent crops.   Farmers should be aware that in addition to these income benefits that the rational for “Greening”, which is supported by public money, is to “safeguard and improve biodiversity on farms”

 

Paul Cotter