‘Greening’ of Direct Payments (Pillar I)
Why is this a priority?
‘Greening’ the CAP is essential to contribute to EU environmental targets and to help maintain the productive capacity of agricultural land and long-term food security. If executed well, greening provides an opportunity to improve agri-environment delivery by acting as an enhanced baseline upon which such schemes operate.
The extent to which the greening proposals, which will allocate 30% of the Pillar I budget to “agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment”, will improve the status quo is mixed. Some of the measures do not go far enough and might water down previous requirements set under cross compliance (Member State dependent). Each of the proposed “beneficial practices” must be designed so that they deliver genuine environmental benefits:
- Crop diversity: This measure will not deliver the proven benefits of agronomically sound crop rotation but could provide protection against large monocultures. This measure should be replaced by a real crop rotation requirement.
- Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) EFAs have significant potential both to recognise and reward those farmers who have retained environmentally and agronomically useful features on their farm and to drive those who do not have such areas to incorporate them on their land. EFAs must not be confused with the old set aside rule, which was set up to control production surpluses. All landscape elements that are part of the farm – including those currently not in the system – should be eligible to count towards the EFA measure. Positive management of EFAs must be encouraged through agri-environment schemes. BirdLife is in favour of 10% EFA at farm level.
- Permanent pastures of high environmental value urgently need proper protection and support. However, the proposed reference year of 2014 could actually incentivise their destruction by encouraging landowners to cultivate their pasture before this date. The current definition of permanent pasture fails to distinguish between intensive grass crops and extensively managed grasslands of the highest environmental value. BirdLife would prefer a Pillar I premium to provide support for extensively managed and environmentally valuable permanent pasture and the retention of the current cross compliance requirement to protect permanent pasture, managed at the Member State level.
 Article 29(1) (a) to have three different crops on their arable land where the arable land of the farmer covers more than 3 hectares and is not entirely used for grass production (sown or natural), entirely left fallow or entirely cultivated with crops under water for a significant part of the year.