Proposal of one-year derogation of certain agricultural rules

During the first year of work, our partner AEIDL, together with the Use Case leaders, has carried out a detailed analysis of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan of the five countries (Spain, Denmark, Lithuania, Germany, and the Netherlands) to identify the programmed interventions that support the specific value chains (wheat, dairy, organic apple, pig sector, onions and potatoes) and selected CSA practices such as: no-tillage system, cover crops, biodiversity management at farm level, feed conversion to 100% forage, organic farming, slurry management, precision farming, etc.

Given this analysis carried out in the Use Cases and with the aim of developing policy recommendations, AEIDL continuously monitors the associated regulations and amendments to them.

On 31 January 2024, the European Commission sent to Member States a proposal for derogation from certain rules included in Regulation (EU) 2021/2115. This proposal concerns regarding the application of the good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) standard 8, the eligibility dates for expenditure from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and rules governing amendments to certain eco-schemes for the 2024 claim year.

Regulation (EU) 2021/2115 establishes rules on support for CAP Strategic Plans to be drawn up by Member States and financed by the EAGF and by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). According to Article 13 of this Regulation, Member States shall ensure that all agricultural areas are maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition and establish, at national or regional level, minimum standards for farmers and other beneficiaries for each standard of  GAEC of land.

The main objective of GAEC standard 8 is to maintain non-productive features and areas to improve on-farm biodiversity. Its first requirement provides that farmers shall devote a minimum share of their arable land to non-productive areas and features. All requirements are detailed in Annex III of Regulation (EU) 2021/2115.

Consequently, on the basis of the proposal offered by the Commission, Member States should be allowed to decide that farmers may exceptionally and temporarily fulfil the first requirement of GAEC standard 8 in an alternative way in so far as claim year 2024 is concerned.

This option, which allows farmers and other beneficiaries to fulfil the first requirement of that standard, involves devoting a minimum share of at least 7 % of arable land at farm level to non-productive areas and features. These areas include land lying fallow; nitrogen fixing crops; and/or catch crops. This approach would enhance farmers’ viability by providing them with more flexibility regarding the use of their arable land and reducing income losses, all while still ensuring environmental benefits. 

The derogation should be limited to claim year 2024, and not affect the rules in years beyond 2024.

  1. As GAEC standards are integral to  eco-schemes and agri-environmental, climate-related, and other management commitments, it is necessary to establish rules for maintaining the baseline conditions where a Member State  utilises derogations for the the first requirement under the GAEC 8. To ensure t adherence to  the principle that payments should only be provided for commitments  exceeding the GAEC standards, and to  uphold the ambition of interventions within green architecture, it’s proposed that payments under eco-schemes and agri-environmental, climate-related and other management commitments for the 2024 claim year  should only be granted for commitments  surpassing the new option for fulfilling the first requirement of GAEC 8, laid down in the Regulation.

In the BEATLES Use Cases study, GAEC 8 is a minimum condition for interventions that support the selected CSA practices. Specifically:

  • Rural Development interventions in Spain:
    • Agri-environmental commitments on agricultural areas for integrated production; sustainable crop commitments; maintenance or improvement of habitats and traditional farming activities that preserve biodiversity; and soil improvement and erosion control practices.
    • Agri-environmental management commitments in organic farming
  • Rural Development intervention in The Netherlands for Agricultural Nature and Landscape Management
  • Eco-scheme for climate and living environment in The Netherlands

Other barriers and opportunities regarding public support to value chains and practical CSA under study will be discussed at the first BEATLES EU multi-actor working group workshop on 23 May.

Stay tuned as registration will be open soon! More information about the proposal for derogation: Meeting of the Common Agricultural Policy Committee on the 5 February 2024, here.

Author: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)