14 January 2021, Europe: The Commission published a list of potential agricultural practices that the eco-schemes could support in the future common agricultural policy (CAP). This list aims to contribute to the debate around the CAP reform and its role in reaching the Green Deal targets. This list also enhances transparency of the process for establishing the Strategic CAP Plans, and provides farmers, administrations, scientists and stakeholders a base for further discussion on making the best use of this new instrument.
Part of the CAP reform currently under negotiations between the European Parliament, Council and the Commission, eco-schemes are a new instrument designed to reward farmers that choose to go one step further in terms of environmental care and climate action. The future CAP will play a crucial role in managing the transition towards a sustainable food system and in supporting European farmers throughout. Eco-schemes will contribute significantly to this transition and to the Green Deal targets.
CAP Strategic Plans will put into practice enhanced conditionality, eco-schemes, farm advisory services as well as agri-environmental and climate measures and investments to address the Green Deal targets, in particular those stemming from the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, and to fulfil the climate and environmental specific objectives of the CAP.
To be supported by eco-schemes, agricultural practices should:
cover activities related to climate, environment, animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance
be defined on the basis of the needs and priorities identified at national/regional levels in their CAP strategic plans
their level of ambition has to go beyond the requirements and obligations set by conditionality
contribute to reaching the EU Green Deal targets
The list of potential agricultural practices includes organic farming practices, agro-ecology such as crop rotation with leguminous crops or low intensity grass-based livestock system. Furthermore, they also comprise carbon farming, with for example conservation agriculture or the extensive use of permanent grassland. Other agricultural practices that could be supported by eco-schemes include precision farming with for instance precision crop farming to reduce inputs or the use of feed additives to decrease emissions from enteric fermentation, and husbandry practices in favour of animal welfare and/or reducing the needs for antimicrobial substances.
The Commission published the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies in May 2020. These two strategies were presented in the context of the European Green Deal to enable the transition towards the increased sustainability of our food systems and to tackle the key drivers of biodiversity loss. They include the targets, to be reached by 2030, of a reduction by 50% of the use and risk of pesticides, a reduction by at least 20% of the use of fertilizers, a reduction by 50% in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture, as well as reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming, and ensuring 100% access to fast broadband in rural areas by 2025.
The Commission presented its proposals for the CAP reform in 2018, introducing a more flexible, performance and results-based approach that takes into account local conditions and needs, while increasing EU level ambitions in terms of sustainability. The future CAP includes a new green architecture which sets higher environmental and climate ambitions.
The European Parliament and Council agreed on their negotiating positions on the reform of the CAP respectively on 23 and 21 October 2020, enabling the start of the trilogues on 10 November 2020. The Commission is determined to play its full role in the CAP trilogue negotiations, as an honest broker between the co-legislators and as a driving force for greater sustainability to deliver on the European Green Deal objectives.