Radical Re-think Needed to Make the CAP Really Deliver for the Environment

Debate on the forthcoming draft CAP proposals from the Commission has warmed up rapidly with the end of the summer break. Views on how various leaked proposals would impact on farming and the environment are being put forward with some urgency. The potential environmental benefits to be had from the proposal to allocate 30 per cent of the future Pillar 1 direct payments to support ‘green’ practices has been recognised. However, the degree to which it could deliver successfully for the environment depends on a variety of issues that have been highlighted in a new paper drawn up by BirdLife International. This has been produced to coincide with the Commission’s Inter-Service Consultation on Commissioner Cioloş’ CAP reform proposals, expected to occur in early September.

The paper, ‘Common Agricultural Policy reform: Radical re-think needed to make the CAP really deliver for the environment’, is a punchy analysis of the of the proposals’ chances of delivering a genuine greening of the CAP. It applies a series of 12 ‘test’ scenarios to current proposals and assesses to what degree such reforms are capable of meeting environmental demands. BirdLife has circulated the document to all EU Commissioners, including Mr Cioloş, and to key decision makers. They would welcome responses from other stakeholders and commentators so please do email with your contributions to this important debate.

3 comments posted

  • Oliver Maurice International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) Director September 6th, 2011

    Statement by the International National Trusts Organisation in support of BirdLife International’s paper

    The International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) whose 54 members include 15 from Europe, is a networking umbrella organisation for national and heritage trusts around the world

    INTO’s mission is to “promote the conservation and enhancement of the heritage of all nations for the benefit of the people of the world and future generations”.

    Heritage, as above, includes both tangible and intangible, and natural and cultural. Our primary concern regarding the proposed CAP reforms is to ensure that the proposals are ‘fit for purpose’ both for the benefit of the natural heritage and also the cultural heritage.

    Many of the landscapes in Europe are not only natural in the context of their topography and ecology but they are also cultural in the terms of man’s impact on that environment. In the Lake District in NW England, for example, it is often stated that the sheep are the architects of the landscape with so many of the vernacular features, stone walls, sheepfolds and other stone buildings built for their management and maintenance.

    It is paramount that the CAP reforms ensure the maximum environmental protection across the EU and enhance the environmental benefits.

    INTO therefore supports wholeheartedly the assertion by BirdLife International that there needs to be a radical rethink to ensure that the CAP proposals do deliver for the environment, both naturaland cultural

  • Miles King The Grasslands Trust September 13th, 2011

    The Grasslands Trust supports Bird Life International’s analysis of the Commission’s current views on the greening of pillar 1 proposals. In particular, The Commission’s plans to alter the permanent pasture rules, such that they apply at farm level, but retain the current definition of permanent pasture, are nonsensical at best. At worst they could lead to significant loss of semi-natural permanent pastures, both within the UK and across Europe. NB For pastures, read pastures and meadows.

    Permanent Pasture is currently defined as “land used to grow grasses or other herbaceous forage either naturally (self-seeded) or through cultivation (sown), which has not been included in the crop rotation for five years or more.” This rule currently applies at Member State level, and there are rules which require permanent pasture to be reinstated if the total area in a member state declines by more than 10% since the reference year. This reference year or baseline was 2003 for most Member States.

    The definition is problematical because it includes sown pastures, of low biodiversity or cultural value, as well as high value semi-natural pastures. Rules that determine whether pastures are eligible for single payment have also meant that large areas of semi-natural permanent pasture were excluded from the baseline.

    For more detail on this issue see a report we produced with the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism downloadable from our website at http://www.grasslands-trust.org/campaign.php?campaignid=11

    The Commission have proposed that, as part of the Greening Pillar 1 proposals, which would account for 30% of Pillar 1 payments, the current rules should be changed such that they apply at the farm level, but without changing the definition of Permanent Pasture. A new baseline reference year of 2014 will also be established. From then on, farmers will, in order to receive the 30% greening element of their single payment, be required to maintain the amount and location of permanent pasture they had in the reference year. This would prevent grassland from being converted to arable, for maize production on dairy farms, for example. As is the case now, there would be no rules controlling the re-seeding, fertiliser application or herbicide use on such pastures. Semi-natural pastures could continue to be lost to agricultural intensifcation, apart from conversion to arable.

    Even though, under the current proposals, farmers will not be constrained by new rules governing how they manage their permanent pastures, there is still a significant risk that farmers who do not want to be constrained by maintaining the current area (and location) of permanent pasture on their land will proceed to cultivate it between the time when the proposals have been agreed, and the reference year ie in the next 2 years. This could lead to significant losses of high value permanent pasture across Europe.

    There is an emerging consensus amongst conservation groups with an interest in semi-natural grasslands across Europe, that there should be permanent pasture rules to protect high value semi-natural pastures from intensive agriculture; as important as protection from cultivation, is an incentive to ensure pastures continue to be managed sympathetically. The Permanent Pasture Premium mentioned in the Bird Life Letter, coupled with strong cross compliance rules to prevent cultivation, is needed. One further issue is that the state of knowledge of these high value grasslands is patchy and varies greatly from one member state to another. To achieve a common approach to high value permanent pasture across the EU, an inventory of those grasslands is needed urgently.

  • Sophie Thomas Plantlife International September 14th, 2011

    Plantlife International supports BirdLife International’s analysis of the Commission’s current views on ‘greening’ Pillar I of the CAP, and their proposed solutions.

    Whilst we welcome the intention to increase the environmental benefits delivered by Pillar I, we are concerned that current proposals may in fact have a detrimental impact on plant biodiversity and the ecosystem services/public goods that depend on it.

    In particular, we are deeply concerned that the current suggestions for permanent pasture could result in substantial destruction of these semi-natural habitats, both through habitat loss and degradation. We echo the more detailed consideration posted above by The Grasslands Trust.

    We are also concerned that the proposals are insufficient to secure High Nature Value farming systems across Europe. These types of farming are not supported by the current CAP, resulting in vast areas of biodiverse habitats being at risk of land abandonment. We do not believe that the suggestions for the reformed CAP address these current deficiencies. As High Nature Value farming delivers the highest levels of public benefit, we believe they should be prioritised for EU support through CAP.

    A special stream of targeted but conditional support for Natura 2000 farms under Pillar I is needed to help safeguard the environmentally beneficial farming systems that keep the sites in good conservation condition. Without such added incentives and conditions we are concerned that the environmental value of these sites might not be secured.

    We agree that targeted advice must be offered to farmers and stress that this advice should be integrated across all taxonomic groups.

    Target 6 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, part of the Convention on Biological Diversity to which the EU is a signatory, is to have ‘At least 75% of production lands in each sector managed sustainably, consistent with the conservation of plant diversity.’ We do not believe that the current proposals for ‘greening’ Pillar I will achieve significant progress towards meeting this target.

    We have circulated BirdLife’s analysis to the Planta Europa network with our endorsement.

    Plantlife International is the organisation that is speaking up for wild plants. We work hard to protect wild plants on the ground and to build understanding of the vital role they play in everyone’s lives. Wild plants are essential to life – they clean our air and water, provide food and shelter for our insects, birds and animals and are critical in the fight against climate change.


05 Sep 2011