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Greening of European agricultural policy is needed

10.03.2010
The German Advisory Council on the Environment calls for a fundamental re-orientation of European agricultural policy in its statement on CAP-reform: "The present European direct payments system is outdated", says Professor Karin Holm-Müller, economist and member of the SRU.

"Public money should in the future only be spent on public goods, especially for environmental protection and nature conservation. Subsidising agriculture with billions of Euros with the predominant aim of supporting the income of large farms cannot be justified."

The European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has come under scrutiny. This has partly been prompted by the current discussion about the future of the EU budget for the new funding period 2014 to 2020. From the perspective of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU), agricultural policy should make an important contribution to addressing the two major environmental problems of the 21st century: climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Intensive agriculture is today one of the major contributors to the loss of biodiversity and emits considerable amounts of the greenhouse gases nitrous oxide and methane.

The conversion of grassland to farmland and the draining of fens for agricultural use also contribute to climate change. Agriculture is also the main source of eutrophication of inland waters and of the North and Baltic Seas. To counteract these trends, it is necessary to reward, in a more targeted way, the contributions farmers are making to the protection of the climate as well as environmental protection and nature conservation.

The SRU therefore proposes to replace the existing, largely income-oriented system of payments with a new system that consists of three forms of payments:

1. A basic payment for the provision of environmental services. To receive this payment, farmers have to make 10 percent of their farmed land available as 'ecological compensation areas' and comply with standards which ensure good agricultural and ecological condition. This aims at maintaining minimum requirements of environmental protection and nature conservation also in intensively farmed high-yield locations.

2. The expansion of current agri-environment measures and contract nature conservation activities which must be more specifically targeted to address new challenges.

3. Landscape conservation funding for the preservation of valuable cultural landscapes which are threatened by abandonment of production. This aims at promoting and conserving existing extensive agricultural practices which have positive effects on biodiversity and on abiotic resources.

This strategy creates new income opportunities for farms because rewarding nature conservation and environmental protection as public goods offers farmers in disadvantaged regions an additional source of income and an opportunity to diversify. By demanding a product in the form of nature conservation and environmental protection, the state communicates to farmers that it values and rewards their conscious decision to safeguard these public goods. Farmers are then seen by the public not as subsidy recipients, but as conscious providers of environmental goods.

The German Advisory Council on the Environment was founded in 1971.
It is an independent, official scientific advisory body of the German Federal Government.

For further information about the SRU, please consult: www.umweltrat.de.

Christian Simon | idw
Further information:
http://www.umweltrat.de

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