Target 3 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy states that
By 2020, maximise areas under agriculture across grasslands, arable land and permanent crops that are covered by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP so as to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and to bring about a measurable improvement [...] in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by agriculture and in the provision of ecosystem services as compared to the EU2010 Baseline, thus contributing to enhance sustainable management.
Summary of EU progress on reaching Target 3 on agriculture:
The conversion of semi-natural and natural habitats into agricultural land, agricultural intensification and the loss of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland due to abandonment are some of the main drivers of biodiversity loss in Europe. The current reform should reorient the common agricultural policy (CAP) and spending towards supporting the agricultural ecosystems that underpin production.
Reform is needed to ensure that the most polluting practices are stopped and the High Nature Value farmers are incentivised to maintain the practices that sustain farmland biodiversity.
Positive developments towards Target 3:
Delays and missed opportunities towards Target 3:
- The European Commission has recognised in its legislative proposal that the delivery of public goods should be one of the three major purposes of the CAP. However the proposal does not go far enough in terms of minimum spending to the protection of natural resources and the delivery of environmental benefits, and a large amount of the budget is still handed out without environmental conditions attached to it.
Counterproductive developments towards Target 3:
- The EU budget proposal 2014-2020 does not direct sufficient funds towards the delivery of public goods in the CAP. Instead, it introduces flexibility for some EU Member States to shift money away from farmers delivering environmental public goods towards blunt income support. More on Funding for Nature
- Currently grasslands have a weak protection because EU Member States only need to avoid the destruction of a national percentage of grassland cover. This does not prevent the conversion of some of our most biodiverse grasslands at farm level. Grassland destruction across the EU, Scottish Machair project
- Common farmland birds continue to decline with no sign of recovery. EU Farmland Bird Index
- Abandonment of High Nature Value farming is on-going throughout the EU. We are therefore losing rural livelihoods and some of our most valuable biodiversity in Europe. Land abandonment across the EU
- Industrial agriculture remains one of the most problematic sectors for biodiversity and the wider environment through water pollution and over-abstraction, soil erosion, the loss of our genetic diversity etc. Impacts of agriculture on water and soil
Milestones – what needs to be achieved by 2014:
- The CAP budget is reoriented towards the delivery of public goods. Hope Farm project, BirdLife position on CAP reform.
- All CAP payments are underpinned by strong cross compliance and include key aspects such as the Water Framework Directive, the Birds and Habitats Directive and the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive. Bird trapping on farmland in Cyprus
- A package of greening measures at farm level is in place for direct payments to farmers. This includes crop rotation, soil cover, 10% of Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) and permanent pasture protection.
- The rural development component of the CAP now includes 1) sufficient spending for targeted environmental measures and support to farmers managing Natura 2000; 2) recognition of High Nature Value farming; 3) “biodiversity proof” rural development spending and not income support through insurance schemes (see The value of HNV farming).