“Exploit all available tools” – German platform on the Eco-Schemes

German agriculture is under pressure. The sector much reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one third of the 1990 level to adhere to the German Climate Action Plan 2050. It must also cut ammonia emissions by 29%, as well as restructure and expand organic farming to meet the target of having 20% of total agricultural area under organic cultivation by 2030. All this must occur whilst building resilience to increasingly extreme weather conditions ( remember last summer?).

The sector needs a serious shake up to meet these environmental targets and challenges. The Verbände-Plattform zur EU-Agrarpolitik, or Platform of Associations on EU Agricultural policy, is a coalition of 20 environmental protection, animal welfare, nature conservation and agriculture organisations as well as farmer’s unions. Full list below.

On March 21st 2019, the platform published a statement on the Specifics of the Eco-Schemes as Part of the EU Agricultural Policy Post-2020.

Download the full statement in English here.

The document sees the eco-schemes as an opportunity for targeted financing to ensure the delivery of tangible environmental, climate and animal welfare services with the call to “exploit all available tools” for this.

“Appropriately nuanced payments should expressly attach value to both the services already being delivered by farmers above and beyond the legal requirements as well as the substantial additional efforts that will be required. Both pillars of the CAP as established should be utilised to this end.”

They call for 70% of the total CAP funding to be allocated to voluntary measures in the areas of environmental protection, climate change mitigation and animal welfare. All parts of the new “green agriculture” should be used for this:

  • With increased minimum requirements beyond the statutory requirements (including permanent grassland provision, minimum crop rotation and minimum proportion of EFAs)
  • At least 30% of pillar 1 funds should be dedicated to eco-schemes at the beginning and must provide income-generating incentives for diverse ecological service provision
  • Pillar 2 should provide more specific measures for example supporting organic farming, protecting peatlands and improved animal welfare services.

Eco-schemes as a major opportunity

The platform stresses that the eco-schemes are a chance for “farmers to be remunerated for tangible societal services in a simple and targeted manner while also helping to generate income.” They want to ensure that a maximum number of farms are able to participate and so want a compulsory use of funds to be set in EU law and be compulsory to all EU member states. Premia for ambitious eco-schemes should be exempt from capping.

Measures unsuitable for eco-schemes

The document says that the failure of the EFAs to really preserve biodiversity has shown that unsuitable measures for the eco-scheme must be stated. These include minimum tillage (which may increase pesticide use), biomass plant production (does not significantly improve carbon footprint), compensation and support for less-favoured  areas and precision farming (positive environmental and climate outcomes should be funded, not technology per se).

Suitable measures for eco-schemes

Counter to those listed above, the platform details some measures it deems appropriate for eco-scheme inclusion. The premia on these measures should be based on how positively it impacts the environment, climate and animal welfare as well as how they aid meeting the Strategic Plan objectives.

Such measures include extensive grassland management (for biodiversity, water conservation and climate change mitigation), extensive arable production and production of legumes (both without pesticides), wildflower strips (an important food source and habitat for pollinators), traditional orchards (which are particularly biodiverse habitats as well as culturally valuable) and arable fallow (as refuges for flora and fauna regeneration).

Also, the platform believes funding measures need to incentivise a restructuring of livestock production for example measures ensuring more space or outdoor access for housed livestock. The ” option envisaged by the EU Commission to provide additional supports (top up) per eligible area should be utilised to this end.”

The statement emphasises that eco-schemes should be combined with farm-based assessments so that chosen measures are tailored to the farm in question, able to “do the most good” in the context of environmental protection and climate change mitigations whilst also helping to generate income.

Eco-schemes within the “green architecture”

The platform concludes that these eco-scheme measures must be distinguished from Pillar 2 agri-environmental and climate measures (AUKM). Whilst some of the listed measures are currently implemented in some federal states, the challenges facing German agriculture are serious and warranting a national roll-out of such measures in addition.

Signed by

  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V. (AbL) (German family farmers’ organization)
  • Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND) (Friends of the Earth, Germany)
  • Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft e.V. (BÖLW) (Umbrella association for the German organic farming and food sector)
  • Bundesverband Beruflicher Naturschutz e.V. (BBN) (National federation of professional conservationists)
  • Bundesverband Berufsschäfer e.V. (BVBS) (National federation of professional shepherds)
  • Bundesverband Deutscher Milchviehhalter e.V. (BDM) (German national federation of dairy farmers)
  • Deutscher Naturschutzring e.V. (DNR) (German League for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection)
  • Deutscher Tierschutzbund e.V. (German Animal Welfare Federation)
  • Deutscher Verband für Landschaftspflege e.V. (DVL) (German Association for Landscape Management)
  • EuroNatur Foundation Greenpeace e.V. Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. (NABU (German Federation for Nature Conservation)
  • Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft e.V. (Community-supported agriculture network)
  • NEULAND e.V. (German animal welfare labelling scheme)
  • Save Our Seeds (SOS) Schweisfurth Foundation Slow Food Deutschland e. V. (Slow Food Germany)
  • Weidewelt e.V. (Association promoting pasture-based livestock management)
  • WWF Germany Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft (Association promoting organic agriculture

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About Helene Schulze 31 Articles

Helene is a contributor and coordinator at ARC2020, co-director of the London Freedom Seed Bank and contributor for various other publications concerned with the intersections between food, agriculture and social justice. She recently completed a Masters degree in Environmental Governance at the University of Oxford. There she wrote her thesis on seed sovereignty and biodiversity conservation in the United Kingdom. Her work focuses on agroecology, (urban) food justice, experimental and participatory policymaking and art-science collaborations for expanding the reach and potential of the food movement.