Author: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)
On 31 January 2024, the European Commission sent to Member States the proposal for derogation of Regulation (EU) 2021/2115 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the application of the standard for good agricultural and environmental conditions of land (GAEC standard) number 8, dates of eligibility of expenditure from the EAGF and rules concerning amendments of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans for modifications of certain eco-schemes for claim year 2024.
For Member States, who will vote on it in a committee meeting, the proposal provides a first concrete policy response to address farmers’ income concerns. It also follows requests outlined by several Member States in Agriculture Council meetings.
According to Article 13 of Regulation (EU) 2021/2115 Member States are to ensure that all agricultural areas, including land that is no longer used for production purposes, are maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition and are to set, at national or regional level, minimum standards for farmers and other beneficiaries for each standard of good agricultural and environmental conditions of land (GAEC standard), listed in Annex III to that Regulation, in line with the main objective of those standards as referred to in that Annex.
The first requirement of GAEC standard 8 provides that farmers shall devote a minimum share of their arable land to non-productive areas and features. Annex III to Regulation (EU) 2021/2115 provides three options which Member States can propose to farmers for fulfilling this obligation.
Because of the recent combination of simultaneous geopolitical events and extreme weather events farmers are facing difficulties in respecting the requirement to devote a minimum share of arable land to non-productive areas and features, which, in certain cases can have a significant short-term impact on their revenue and put at risk the viability of their activities.
Consequently, based on the Commission’s proposal, Member States may opt to allow farmers to 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 allows farmers and other beneficiaries to fulfil the first requirement of that standard by allocating a minimum share of at least 7% of arable land at the farm level to non-productive areas and features. These may include fallow land, nitrogen-fixing crops, and catch crops. Such flexibility would enhance farmers’ viability by reducing restrictions on land use while still ensuring environmental benefits, thereby minimising income losses.
The derogation should be limited to claim year 2024, and not affect the rules in years beyond 2024, and should be restricted to what is strictly necessary to address the difficulties farmers are facing as explained in the above, to avoid unduly compromising the objective of the GAEC standard 8 to improve on-farm biodiversity as part of the long-term sustainability of the sector. The other three requirements under the GAEC standard 8 listed in the Annex III to Regulation (EU) 2021/2115, including the requirement concerning the retention of landscape features, should remain applicable for claim year 2024.
As GAEC standards are part of the baseline conditions of eco-schemes and agri-environmental, climate-related and other management commitments, it is appropriate to lay down rules on the respect of the baseline where a Member State makes use of the derogations for the application the first requirement under the GAEC 8. To ensure the respect of the general principle that payments are only provided for commitments going beyond the GAEC standards, and to safeguard the ambition of the interventions, which form part of the green architecture of the CAP, it should be laid down that payments under eco-schemes and agri-environmental, climate-related and other management commitments for claim year 2024 should only be made for the commitments which go beyond the new option for fulfilling the first requirement of GAEC 8.
More information:Meeting of the Common Agricultural Policy Committee on the 5 February 2024, here.