Report 2012

Common Agricultural Policy

An olive grove affected by severe erosion.
Credit: Ariel Brunner

The CAP and agriculture: an environmental crisis driven by bad policy


The CAP has over the last 50 years played a hugely damaging role by handing out subsidies to farmers and artificially boosting their production to the detriment of the environment and developing countries. Despite subsequent rounds of reform, which have removed many perverse subsidies, the CAP still fails to address the challenges agriculture and land management face in the 21st century: continuing biodiversity decline, water pollution and unsustainable abstraction, soil degradation, accelerating climate change and unsustainable demand for food and energy (Impacts of agriculture on water and soil). Unless the CAP is reformed, the challenges will intensify and spread across the EU. (BirdLife position on CAP reform)


Farmland Bird indicator, EU, 1990-2010 (37 species)


The Corn bunting is still a very common bird in High Nature Value farming areas, but its populations have collapsed in intensively farmed parts of Europe such as Ireland, Belgium or Northern Italy
Credit: Pierre Commenville


Currently intensive use of land reduces biodiversity richness, and almost one third of Europe’s Important Bird Areas (IBA) are threatened by agricultural intensification and expansion.

Populations of farmland birds in Europe, which are also an indicator of the health of the ecosystem as a whole, have declined by more than 50% in the past 30 years. This totals to around 300 million farmland birds that have been lost since 1980. If we don’t halt the continuing loss of habitats and intensification of farming practices, challenges facing biodiversity will continue to increase (EU Farmland Bird Index).