German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Contractual nature conservation and agri-environmental programmes

Contractual nature conservation and agri-environmental programmes

Agri-environmental measures (AEMs), or in the new funding period agri-environment-climate measures, are voluntary measures in which farmers undertake to follow nature and environment-friendly farming practices that go beyond legal requirements. AEMs include a wide range of measures such as organic farming, reduced use of fertiliser and crop protection products, management of grassland in accordance with nature conservation objectives, contractual nature conservation management agreements, landscape and habitat conservation measures, setting aside arable land, environmentally and animal-friendly livestock farming practices, and promoting the breeding and keeping of rare local livestock breeds. The most commonly funded agri-environmental programmes are mainly about abiotic resource conservation and easing pressure on the market, but also have positive side-effects for species and habitat conservation. Measures of this kind are sometimes described as ‘light green’ AEMs.

In contrast, ‘dark green’ measures (such as contract nature conservation) are those with a strong positive impact in terms of conserving and promoting biodiversity. Examples include leaving field borders uncultivated, turning arable land into extensively grazed grassland, and conserving sparse orchards and hedges. However, such measures so far only account for a small share of total funding for AEMs.

A number of German Länder offer success-based funding. Rather than funding specific farming practices, the measures concerned reward the presence of specific rare or threatened species. Funding is based on the identification of at least four (plant) indicator species from a regional list.

Agri-environmental measures and contract nature conservation are supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) within the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In federal Germany, this second pillar of the CAP is implemented by the Länder. Agri-environmental and contract nature conservation measures have to be partly funded by the federal states to qualify for EU co-financing. The German government may also provide co-financing under the ‘Programme on Improving Agrarian Structures and Coastal Protection’ (GAK, Gemeinschaftsaufgabe “Verbesserung der Agrarstruktur und des Küstenschutzes”).

In the 2007-2013 funding period, approximately one-quarter of the funding made available for rural development in Germany was used for AEMs. The amount of funding for AEMs has declined continuously since 2005. The area of land funded as AEMs represented some 40 percent of farmland in Germany. Despite this considerable funding, the conservation status of most farmed habitats in the agricultural countryside still remains poor and in some cases has even deteriorated in recent years. The funding for AECMs has effectively been cut in the new funding period. Targeting promotion and conservation of biodiversity in the cultivated landscape requires additional funding, primarily directed at expanding and enhancing programmes that have a demonstrable positive impact. There has also so far been a failure to develop an incentive system to better reward nature conservation efforts.

Last Change: 17/04/2015