|Main authors:||Thorfinn Stainforth, Catherine Bowyer, Luuk Fleskens, Jane Brandt|
|iSQAPERiS editor:||Jane Brandt|
|Source document:||Stainforth et al. (2020) Integrated soil quality assessment - good quality soils support environmental protection, climate action and rural development: the iSQAPER Toolkit - H2020 Research conclusions for policy makers. iSQAPER Project Deliverable 8.4, 18 pp|
|1. The Common Agricultural Policy 2014-2020|
|2. The CAP reform post-2020: Opportunities for the new delivery model|
|3. Prospects for The CAP reform post-2020|
For over half a century the CAP has played an influential role in farm and land management decisions taken by EU farmers. The main findings from iSQAPER not only highlight the range of different soil functions or threats across EU Member States that need to be addressed, but also some key AMPs, as well as tailored combinations, that can positively affect soil quality. The CAP 2014-2020 makes attempts to influence soil management decisions through basic environmental conditions for receiving income support (e.g. cross compliance, Pillar 1 green direct payments), and more targeted support using voluntary land management schemes (e.g. Pillar 2 AECM, organic farming). However, while regulations determining the scope, funding and governance of the policy are set at EU level, Member States have a certain level of discretion in their implementation choices which can potentially lead to different levels of soil protection across the Union. For example, our own analysis found that Member States often used a range of measures to address soil erosion. However, they were less comprehensive in addressing the protection of soil organic matter (see »Protecting Europe's soils: policy solutions and opportunities). In this respect, for AMPs to be effectively taken up by farmers and land managers in the long-term a more coordinated and integrated approach to soil management needs to be at the heart of the next cycle of the CAP.
Efforts to increase the environmental and climate ambition of the CAP are a key feature of the post-2020 reform proposed by the European Commission in 2018. This is expected to come into force in January 2023. (NB The Commission proposal envisaged the new CAP coming into force in 2021. However a 2-year transitional period is now place meaning that the new policy will not be in place until at least 2023.) subject to a final agreement being reached by the European Parliament and Agriculture and Fisheries Council (which at time of writing is still under negotiation). Under a ‘new delivery model,’ all CAP interventions will be set out in a CAP Strategic Plan (CSP) drawn up by the Member States based on a needs assessment and programming targets. The overall aim is to support a more performance-based policy aligned to 9 common EU specific CAP objectives. (NB Three of these objectives concern climate mitigation and adaptation; the management of natural resources such as soil; and the protection of biodiversity and enhancement of ecosystem services). The new performance-based approach redefines the responsibilities between the EU and Member States in the design and implementation of the CAP, shifting from compliance with detailed EU rules towards common strategic planning. The reform also foresees a further mainstreaming of environmental and climate concerns across the entire CAP with all interventions aligned to common EU objectives but designed and implemented according to Member States’ national and regional needs and priorities set out in their CSPs.
The instruments and measures that Member States can use to support more sustainable land management choices amongst farmers and land managers are known collectively as the CAP’s ‘green architecture’. The ‘green architecture’ Post-2020 foresees a reconfiguration of the CAP’s current instruments and measures. A notable feature is the introduction of a new agri-environment-climate instrument called the eco-scheme. It aims to incentivise more sustainable farm and land management using Pillar 1 direct payments. This suite of interventions that make up the new ‘green architecture’ have significant potential to influence land use and management in a way that can benefit soil protection issues specifically, but also sustainable land management more broadly. This includes:
- Basic standards for Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC), which can directly or indirectly impact on soil management and farmers must comply with in order to receive direct payments under Pillar 1 and ‘area and animal-based payments’ under Pillar 2 (Table 1);
- Voluntary land management schemes, in the form of the new Pillar 1 eco-scheme and the existing Pillar 2 agri-environment-climate commitments, that can build on the basic standards and requirements of conditionality by incentivising farmers and land managers to take up relevant AMPs (Table 2); and
- Other interventions such as farm advisory services, investments and knowledge exchange and information which can be programmed to form part of ‘green architecture’ or support it.
Table 1: Proposed GAEC standards for supporting soil management
|New GAEC standards||Potential soil threat addressed|
|Potential direct effects for soil management|
|GAEC 6: Tillage management to reduce the risk of soil degradation, including slope consideration in order to ensure minimum land management reflecting site-specific conditions to limit erosion||Soil erosion, loss of soil organic matter/soil carbon, compaction|
|GAEC 7: No bare soil in most sensitive period(s) to protect during winter||Soil erosion, loss of soil organic matter/soil carbon, soil biodiversity|
|GAEC 8: Crop rotation to preserve soil potential (new)||Loss of soil organic matter/soil carbon, soil biodiversity, compaction|
|Potential for direct and indirect effects for soil management|
|GAEC 1: Maintenance of permanent grassland as a general safeguard against conversion to preserve carbon stock*||Soil erosion, loss of organic matter/soil carbon, loss of soil biodiversity|
|GAEC 2: Preservation of carbon-rich soils such as peatlands and wetlands (new)||Loss of organic matter/soil carbon, loss of soil biodiversity, soil erosion|
|GAEC 3: Ban of burning arable stubble to maintain soil organic matter, except for plant health reasons||Loss of soil organic matter/soil carbon|
|GAEC 4: Establishment of buffer strips along water course||Contamination (diffuse), soil erosion, loss of organic matter, compaction|
|GAEC 5: Use of Farm Sustainability Tool for Nutrients (new)||Contamination (diffuse)|
|GAEC 9: Maintenance of non-productive features and area to improve on-farm biodiversity||Loss of soil organic matter/soil carbon, soil biodiversity, compaction|
|GAEC 10: Ban on converting or ploughing permanent grassland in Natura 2000 sites to protect habitats and species (new)||Loss of organic matter/soil carbon, loss of soil biodiversity, soil erosion|
Source: Own compilation based on the Commission’s Proposals for a new Regulation on CAP Strategic Plans, Annex III; Frelih-Larsen et al. (2016); and expert judgement Notes:
*GAEC supersedes existing greening obligation.
Table 2: Voluntary land management interventions with the potential to support soil management
|Scheme type||Eco-scheme: Schemes for the climate and the environment - (Art. 28)||AECM: Environment, climate and other management commitments* - (Art. 65)|
|Beneficiaries and eligibility criteria||Farmers achieving one or more of the CAP’s relevant specific objectives. Must fulfill the ’genuine farmer’ definition as set out by Member States as well as other criteria e.g. eligible hectares, land type etc||Farmers and land managers achieving the one or more of the CAP’s relevant specific objectives. Other selection criteria could be defined by the Member States|
|Commitments||Annual or multiannual||Multiannual up 5 to 7 years or more|
|Funding||EAGF (Annual, 100% EU financed)||EAFRD (Multi-annual, EU and nationally co-financed)|
|Payment type||Full or partial compensation for cost incurred/income foregone (including opportunity costs), or fixed top-up payment to the basic income support (based on Member State justification)||Full or partial compensation for cost incurred/income foregone (including opportunity costs)|
Source: Own complication based on the Commission’s Proposals for a new Regulation on CAP Strategic Plans
The extent to which Member States decide to take a coordinated and integrated approach to soil management will depend on the CSP choices taken by national and regional authorities (where relevant). In the first instance Member States will need to determine that the choices they take are making a measurable contribution to the CAP specific objectives and are aligned with EU’s environmental and climate objectives and the ambitions of the European Green Deal headline targets. In the end, while key elements of the scope, funding and governance remain at EU level, individual and/or packages of interventions will be designed and implemented according to Member States specific needs and priorities. These choices will be subject to final approval from the European Commission. For instance, Member States will define the ten GAEC standards considering the specific characteristics of the areas concerned. Furthermore both the eco-scheme and Pillar 2 agri-environment-climate commitments and interventions apply a high degree of subsidiarity, allowing Member States to tailor them specifically to address national and regional soil threats and other land management needs.
At time of press the final scope, funding and governance of CAP is currently under negotiation between the European Commission, Parliament and Agriculture Council and is expected to lead some significant modifications to the Commission’s proposal (For further analysis of the European Commission's proposal see »Getting to the roots of sustainable land management.
The positions of European Parliament and Agriculture Council, as co-legislators, largely endorse the new delivery model set out in the Commission’s 2018 proposal. Several amendments proposed by the co-legislators have the potential to affect the signposting and prioritisation of support for soil management under the next CAP. Key amendments include:
- Reducing the level of ambition of the GAEC standards that directly effect soil management (GAEC 6, 7, 8) on the one hand (e.g. Agricultural Council) and enhancing them to some extent one the other (e.g. Parliament);
|European Commission||European Parliament||European Agricultural Council|
|GAEC 6: Tillage management to reduce the risk of soil degradation, including slope consideration in order to ensure minimum land management reflecting site-specific conditions to limit erosion||Added emphasis on appropriate tillage management to reduce the risk of soil degradation and loss||Emphasis on appropriate cultivation to limit the risk of soil degradation rather than reduce it|
|GAEC 7: No bare soil in most sensitive period(s) to protect during winter||Added emphasis on protecting soil against erosion and maintaining soil biota when parcels are not being worked||Minimum soil cover in certain areas and time periods deemed most sensitive|
|GAEC 8: Crop rotation to preserve soil potential (new)||Crop rotation with a leguminous crop, except for crops under water||Broadening the scope to include other practices that can preserve soil quality (but could be weaker) e.g. spatial diversification|
- Removing or watering-down other GAEC standards that can directly and indirectly affect soil management. For example, the Agriculture Council proposes to delete the standard for farmers to sustainably manage nutrients (GAEC 5), while both the Parliament and Agriculture Council weaken the standard for all farms to devote a share of their agricultural land non-productive features and areas which could help to enhance soil management;
- Ring-fencing between at least 20% (e.g. Agricultural Council) to 30% (e.g. Parliament) of the Pillar 1 budget for the eco-schemes, while the Parliament proposes to increase the minimum environmental spend to 35% from 30% under Pillar 2; and
- Finally, neither the Parliament and Agriculture Council make a clear and meaningful link between the EGD headline objectives/targets and the new CAP.
Thus from the perspective of enhancing the CAP’s role in soil management the positions of both the Agriculture Council and Parliament only partially build on the Commission’s proposals and some cases either water-down or delegate the responsibility to individual Member States.
Source: Own compilation based on from Agricultural Council (2020) and European Parliament (2020c),
The CAP post-2020 presents new opportunities to put environmental and climate action, including soil management, at the heart of the next CAP. As the policy has the potential to create powerful incentives and disincentives that affect land management decisions, it can, therefore, play an influential role in how farmers and land managers respond to key environmental and climate challenges including soil health. To reach its full potential the scope, funding and governance will require not only a sound legal basis at EU level, but also a strong commitment from Member States to design and implement their CSP in such a way that they can make an active contribution to supporting soil functions and address key soil threats faced across the Union. Indeed the »iSQAPER Toolkit - a new interconnected approach to soil quality assessment provides many key tools for policy makers and stakeholders to support these endeavours.
Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see