CAP overhaul in Bulgaria could serve both farmers and nature, study says
A new study by NABU (BirdLife in Germany) and BSPB (BirdLife in Bulgaria) looks at the effects of the implementation of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Bulgaria
At a workshop with politicians, farmers and NGOs, the German BirdLife-Partner NABU and the Bulgarian BirdLife-Partner BSPB presented a new scientific study that looks at the economic and environmental effects of the implementation of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Bulgaria. The scenarios and calculations of the scientists show that a substantial reform of the agricultural policy would allow farmers to gain more income and at the same time help to protect Bulgaria's unique farmland biodiversity.
Problems like declining farmland biodiversity, recognizable by the decline of insects and decreasing numbers of birds on farmlands, the eutrophication of waterbodies and climate change have been becoming increasingly severe in the European Union (EU) and they are all – more or less – related to agriculture. The CAP makes up the largest share of the EU budget: almost 40% in 2017. The lion’s share of this money is distributed as direct payments per hectare to support farmers across the EU.
Bulgaria is a country that is still home to lots of biodiversity with high species richness on farmland, especially on grassland. Additionally, it is the country with the second largest area of Natura 2000 sites within the EU. Unfortunately, grasslands and farmland biodiversity have been decreasing in recent years, together with the trend of more intensive agriculture and increasing use of agrochemical inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Farmers are subject to the general political framework and try to optimize production and income based on the given policy incentives. The provision of environmental services and the protection of biodiversity through certain sustainable farming practices result in additional costs for farmers, which they can only consider if there is some form of compensation. The actual current system of direct payments with its inefficient and ineffective greening component does not sufficiently incorporate the provision of public goods and services demanded by society. Public goods should be supported using tax payers’ money. Therefore, the CAP needs to include measures which incentivize farmers to switch to sustainable farming practices as well as carrying out specific measures to further biodiversity.
The key findings of this study include:
- The CAP post 2020 needs a new policy model and substantial reform
- Sustainable production and productivity growth are a challenge for the agricultural sector
- The CAP in Bulgaria needs a more efficient and transparent implementation
- The CAP needs to more effectively address environmental challenges
- Institutional and Property Rights in Bulgaria are weak and need enforcement
- The BirdLife CAP Reform Model is an opportunity for the environment and to improve farmer’s incomes
Recommendations for the future Agricultural Policy in Bulgaria:
- Reduce and phase out direct payments in the medium term.
- Phase out voluntary coupled payments and transitional national payments in the short term.
- Clarify objectives and priorities within the Pillar I.
- Solve the demographic and social challenges of the agricultural sector by applying improved social and taxation policies.
- Adjust the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) to the grassland systems in Bulgaria and reduce negative environmental side effects of LPIS.
- Strengthen legal enforcement and controls in the agricultural sector. This is specifically true for the environmental legislation and controls, where fraud and illegal appropriation can cause environmental deterioration.
- Strengthen and improve agri-environmental measures with respect to their efficiency and applicability and financial resources
- Make use of the BirdLife model as a possible alternative for improved agri-environmental programs, adopting the measures regionally and doing pre-evaluations before implementing them.
- Align agri-environmental programs to the Natura 2000 objectives.
- Improve advisory services, information and education for the agricultural sector.