German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP):

A basis for sustainable agriculture across Europe?


The EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a key force in establishing nature-friendly and environment-friendly agriculture across Europe. With a current overall annual budget of €56 billion, the CAP harbours the scope to promote publicly accepted, nature and climate-friendly agricultural production. Potentially it can thus make a major contribution to key EU environmental aims such as implementing the Habitats Directive and the Water Framework Directive and attaining EU climate targets. To achieve these aims, however, nature and resource conservation must go beyond protected areas and also be practised on farmed land.

A mainstay of nature conservation in the farming countryside is the second pillar of the CAP with the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which finances agri-environmental support. This takes in agri-environmental measures, contract nature conservation, Natura 2000 compensation, and rural heritage conservation measures. Another key element is the cross-compliance (CC) regime added to the CAP in the Agenda 2000 reforms. The CC rules tie CAP first pillar income support for farmers (direct payments) to specific environmental protection and nature conservation requirements with criteria such as the environment, climate protection, good farming practice, human, animal and crop health, and animal welfare.

In an overhaul of nature conservation and environmental protection policies in European agriculture for the period beyond 2013, the policymaking bodies involved sought, within the CAP, to resolve goal conflicts between natural and environmental sustainability in agriculture and agricultural competitiveness. Policymakers are heavily reliant in such decisions on expert advice.

BfN takes an active part in the discussion surrounding the onward development and evaluation of the CAP and supports the greening process. In wide-ranging research over recent years, BfN has formulated proposals for a thorough greening of the CAP and to better align first and second pillar instruments with nature conservation aims. BfN supported the agriculture reform discussion process with scientific analysis and problem-oriented policy advice in an R&D project launched in 2010 on CAP reform and the attainment of biodiversity and environmental targets. Besides evaluating the impact of policy scenarios on nature and the environment, the project yielded specific proposals on practicable options for nature-friendly agriculture. In a further R&D project, specific ideas were put forward for the practical implementation of ecological focus areas at international, national and farm level. From a nature conservation standpoint, in line with the National Strategy on Biological Diversity, the aim of creating ecological focus areas is to help conserve biodiversity on all farmed land – including in intensive agriculture regions. Supplementary to the ongoing projects, BfN is active at European level with the chairmanship of the ENCA Network Working Group on Sustainable Land Use & Agriculture.

Last Change: 14/06/2018