Posts Tagged ‘Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)’

Entscheidungen bei der Ökologischen Vorrangfläche: Eine Experten-Befragung

1. Juni 2017

Seit der Einführung des Greenings und der ökologischen Vorrangfläche (ÖVF) wurde vielfach gefragt, was die Entscheidung der Landwirte beeinflusst. Um diese Frage haben wir Experten-Interviews durchgeführt, in denen wir die Experten zu den Entscheidungsgründen bei der ÖVF befragt haben. Das Ziel der Studie ist es, ein abstraktes Bild von den Entscheidungsgründen zu bekommen und konkrete Handlungsempfehlungen für die Weiterentwicklung der ÖVF speziell und der Naturschutzpolitik im allgemeinen zu bekommen.

 

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In qualitative, semi-strukturiertes Telefoninterviews haben wir Experten gebeten, die statistische Auswertung der Greening-Entscheidungen in ihrem Bundesland zu erklären. Hierbei bekamen die Experten die regionalen Ergebnisse in einer Tabelle vorgelegt. Wir haben dabei nicht basierend auf spezifischen Hypothesen oder Kategorien gefragt, sondern nutzten eine offene Frageform, um aus den Äußerungen mittel qualitativer Inhaltsanalyse Motive zu entwickeln. Darüber hinaus haben wir die Experten gebeten, Empfehlungen für die Weiterentwicklung des Naturschutzes in der Agrarpolitik zu geben

Zu den Experten gehörten (1) Mitarbeiter der Landesministerien für Landwirtschaft, die für die Umsetzung von Greening zuständig sind, (2) Vertreter der Bauernverbände in den Bundesländern und (3) Mitarbeiter von Beratungsinstitutionen in den verschiedenen Bundesländern, die jeweils zum Thema Greening beraten. Insgesamt wurden 35 Experten in den 13 Flächenbundesländern interviewt. Es wurden insgesamt 317 unterschiedliche Nennungen ausgewertet, die wir mit Hilfe von MAXQDA-Software kodiert und in zwei Reduktionsschritten zu Kategorien gruppiert haben.

Die Ergebnisse zeigen folgende Bestimmungsgründe für die Entscheidung bei der ökologischen Vorrangfläche:

Farmers Decision

Abb. 1.: Bestimmungsgründe für die Entscheidung bei der Ökologischen Vorrangfläche basierend auf qualitativen Experten-Interviews

(*Die Nennungen sind unterscheidbare Äußerungen der Interviewten. D.h. in einem Interview kann es zu Mehrfach-Nennungen zu verschiedenen oder auch zur gleichen Kategorie.)

Die Abbildung zeigt, dass rechtliche Rahmenbedingungen und Verwaltung (mit 147 Nennungen) der wichtigste Bestimmungsgrund für die Entscheidung von Landwirten sind. Eine der Hauptprobleme in dieser Kategorie sind die technischen Bestimmungen für die verschiedenen ÖVF-Optionen und dies betrifft vor allem die komplexeren ÖVF-Optionen wie Pufferstreifen und Landschaftselemente. Ein von den Experten (jedoch auch von praktischen Landwirten) genanntes Problem betrifft die Flächenmaße von ÖVF: Wenn Flächenmaße mehr als 20% von den Angaben im Antrag abweichen, dann riskieren Landwirte nicht nur eine Kürzung der Greening Prämie (d.h. – 37,5% der Gesamtzahlung), sondern sie riskieren in speziellen Fällen sogar den Verlust des Prämienanspruchs für die Fläche.

Über die Studie hinaus, ist aus der Praxis auch folgendes Mess-Problem bekannt: Wenn gleichzeitig ein Agrarumweltprogramm in Anspruch genommen wird (was in 8 von 13 Flächenstaaten möglich ist), dann darf ein Gewässerrandstreifen als Ökologische Vorrangfläche lediglich 10 m breit sein. Als Agrarumweltprogramm muss dieser Streifen allerdings mindestens 6 m breit sein. D.h. ein Landwirt bewegt sich mit seinen möglichen Messfehlern in einem Korridor von 4 m, was in der freien Natur geradezu absurd ist, da ein Acker selten quadratisch und geraden Ränder ist. Man kann es Landwirten nicht verdenken, dass sie diese Option selten nutzen.

Diese Probleme erklären die seltene Wahl von komplexen Maßnahmen wie Streifenelemente (1,5% der ÖVF) oder Landschaftselemente (2,2% der ÖVF): Landwirte wollen das mögliche Risiko dieser Optionen vermeiden und wählen daher die einfachen ÖVF, nämlich Zwischenfrüchte (68%), Brache (15%) und Leguminosen (13%). Allerdings werden Zwischenfrüchte und Leguminosen als für die Biodiversität eher wirkungslos eingestuft. Allerdings sehen Ökologen bei der Brache eine positive Wirkung auf die Biodiversität, so dass die Brache nicht nur ökonomisch, sondern auch aus administrativen Gründen eine interessante „Win-win-Option“ sein könnte.

Insgesamt sind die rechtlichen und verwaltungstechnischen Probleme als Kombination von unklaren Regeln auf EU-Ebene und die komplizierte Umsetzung auf nationaler Ebene. Die Interviews wurden im Dezember 2015 und Januar 2016 durchgeführt, d.h. es könnte sein, dass die Bedeutung der rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen im Zeitablauf etwas abnimmt. Allerdings zeigt die Wahl der ÖVF-Optionen in 2016 in Deutschland, dass sich eigentlich so gut wie gar nichts verändert. D.h. selbst wenn die Anforderungen besser bekannt sind, bleiben die Probleme bestehen. Und die Frage, wie Landwirte zu der Wahl von effektiven Maßnahmen motiviert werden können, ist keine Frage der Information, sondern eher der viel zu komplizierten Regeln.

Die ökonomischen Bestimmungsgründe (71) sind gemäß unseren Erwartungen auch sehr wichtig: Landwirte vergleichen Kosten und wählen die ÖVF-Optionen, die weniger Kosten verursachen. Allerdings spielt nicht nur der reine Kostenunterschied eine Rolle, sondern auch mögliche wirtschaftliche Risiken von Erträgen oder Preisen. Ein weiterer ökonomischer Faktor ist die Frage, inwieweit eine ÖVF-Option in das Betriebskonzept passt. Beispielsweise bieten sich Zwischenfrüchte als eine kosten-effiziente Option an, wenn sich diese gut in bestehende Fruchtfolgen integrieren lassen.

Standortfaktoren (49) üben als dritte Kategorie einen wichtigen Einfluss auf die ÖVF-Entscheidung aus. Landwirte versuchen die ÖVF-Option zu wählen, die zu den Betriebsbedingungen wie Bodenqualität, Topografie oder Niederschlägen passen. Landwirte nutzen bereits existierende Landschaftselemente oder etablierte Anbaupraxis für die Umsetzung der ÖVF. So findet man einen hohen Anteil von Leguminosen in Süddeutschland, wo es eine längere Erntephase gibt oder in Ostdeutschland, wo es aufgrund der Betriebsgröße und der Anbautradition z.B. die entsprechende Erntetechnik vorhanden ist. Zwischenfrüchte werden dagegen in Ostdeutschland mitunter gemieden, da diese dem Boden Feuchtigkeit entziehen und Niederschlag ein limitierender Faktor in Ostdeutschland ist. Ein weiteres Beispiel ist die Nutzung von traditionellen Hecken („Knicks“) sowie von Gräben in Schleswig-Holstein, die dort Landschaft gehören. Eigentumsverhältnisse sind klar geregelt, so dass viele Landwirte Landschaftselemente nutzen konnten, um die ÖVF nachzuweisen. In Schleswig-Holstein beträgt der Anteil der Landschaftselemente an der ÖVF 48%, während diese in anderen Bundesländern 1-3% ausmachen.

Gegen die ersten drei Kategorien fallen die verbleibenden Kategorien ab: Ökologische Faktoren (26) spielen eine Rolle bei der Wahl der ÖVF-Optionen. Landwirte überlegen hierbei, welche möglichen positiven Ökosystemleistungen durch die ÖVF für den Betrieb entstehen. Auch Biodiversitätsüberlegungen sowie der mögliche kulturelle Wert von Landschaft werden genannt. Aus den Nennungen der Experten wird deutlich, dass diese Themen in den Gesprächen mit Landwirten kaum eine Rolle spielen. Die Umweltziele sind Landwirten nicht klar. Es gibt auf Seiten der Landwirte viele Ideen, die jedoch nicht ausreichend genutzt werden. Die ÖVF ist hierfür nicht das richtige Instrument.

Schließlich spielen mögliche Politik-Anreize (24) eine Rolle bei der Wahl der ÖVF-Option: Mögliche Kombinationen mit Agrarumweltprogrammen werden reflektiert wie auch Überschneidungen oder Konflikte z.B. bei Kontrollen von Cross Compliance.

Am Ende wurden die Experten gebeten Empfehlungen zu geben für die Weiterentwicklung des Naturschutz im Rahmen der Agrarpolitik zu geben sowie zur Verbesserung der ÖVF. Unter den Experten wurde am häufigsten die Stärkung der II. Säule (33) allgemein, sowie im speziellen der Ausbau der Agrarumweltprogramme genannt. Allerdings gab es auch eine Reihe von Nennungen über mögliche Verbesserungen des Greenings (13) sowie allgemeine Empfehlungen (32). Insgesamt geht die Tendenz der der Äußerungen in Richtung einer Stärkung der II. Säule, allerdings gab es auch Hinweise, wie man Bereich im System des Greenings Verbesserungen erreichen kann.

Unsere Ergebnisse zeigen, dass man das Entscheidungsverhalten im Rahmen des Greenings nicht vollständig mit sozio-ökonomischer Theorie erklären kann. Rechtliche Rahmenbedingungen und Verwaltung spielen eine entscheidende Rolle. Es könnte zwar sein, dass diese Motive etwas an Bedeutung verlieren, allerdings zeigen die Zahlen von 2016 keine Änderung bei der Wahl der ÖVF, so dass man die Wahl der ÖVF insgesamt nicht mit Informationsdefiziten begründen kann, wie dies mitunter geäußert wurde. Die Bedeutung der rechtlichen Rahmenbedingungen wird auch in zwei Befragungen von Landwirten in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern und Südniedersachsen bestätigt.

Unsere Studie zeigt zahlreiche Empfehlungen für die Verbesserung der ÖVF und der Naturschutzpolitik im allgemeinen. Eine wichtige Empfehlung ist die Vereinfachung der Verwaltung und der technischen Vorgaben. Beratung, Information und Kommunikation sind entscheidend für eine Verbesserung der Wirkungen der ÖVF und für mehr Bewusstsein in der Landwirtschaft. Die Empfehlungen gehen auch dahin, den Anteil der effektiven ÖVF-Optionen zu erhöhen und die Abstimmung zwischen der ÖVF und den Agrarumweltmaßnahmen (AUM) zu verbessern. Die Experten empfehlen auch die Eigenmotivation der Landwirte zu verbessern. Die Agrarumweltmaßnahmen sind aufgrund der Freiwilligkeit eher in der Lage, die Motivation der Landwirte aufzugreifen.

Es gibt einen Policy Brief, in dem wichtige Empfehlungen zusammengefasst werden. Unser Artikel im Journal Land Use Policy ist in open access, d.h. gebührenfrei lesbar, dort sind die Bestimmungsgründe genauer und ausführlicher beschreiben. Ich freue mich über Rückmeldungen.

Quelle:

Zinngrebe, Y., G. Pe’er, S. Schüler, J. Schmitt, J. Schmidt & S. Lakner (2017): The EU’s Ecological Focus Areas – explaining farmers‘ choices in Germany (Open Access!), Land Use Policy, Vol. 65 (June 2017): 93-108, doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2017.03.027.

Zinngrebe et al. 2017 Implementing EFAs policy brief

 

 

Supporting Greening with Agri-Environmental Measures: Improvement or rather a waste of money?

21. Juni 2016

The concept of Greening of Direct Payments and more specifically the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) are going into their second year of implementation. I will discuss the pragmatic option to additionally support EFA by agri-environmental measures (AEM) in order to improve effectiveness of EFA. The experience in Germany do not deliver strong arguments for this option. The advantage of this option is the application within the existing CAP-framework.

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One effective EFA-option: Flouring strip with phacelia in Lindau, South Lower Saxony

The uptake of effective EFA-options in 2015 was very poor: Landscape elements, buffer strips and fallow land together contributed to 20% of EFA-area in Germany and 25% in the whole EU (figures before weighting factors and excluding figures from France, see my last post here). After the first year of learning and getting along with administrative restrictions, it is unclear whether we will observe an increase of effective EFA-options or not. Beyond the general recommendation to abolish Greening and to use the resources for agri-environmental schemes, we might think about options within the existing Greening-framework. And one of these options are the registration of existing agri-environmental measures (AEM) as EFA-option and thereby improve the effectiveness and focus of EFA-options.

In Germany, agri-environmental measures (AEM) are designed by the federal states (Bundesländer) and additionally supported by the national government. If the federal states want to get financial support form Berlin, the need to adjust their AEM to the regulatory national framework called “Joint Task for the Improvement of Agricultural Structure and Coastal Protection (GAK)“, which sets the general rules for the support by the national government. One rule is, that the payment has to be reduced, since part of the environmental service is already paid by the greening payment. Besides this, the rules have to go beyond the EFA-rules. Within the German framework GAK, the option to support EFA by agri-environmental measures or, vice versa, to register AEM as EFA is given for several EFA-options, as described in the next table 1:

Table: Payments in agri-environmental schemes and reduction rate due to registration as EFA in Germany

Table1a

Note that there is always the problems of ‚double funding‘, which is forbidden by EU-law: Services cannot be paid twice. However, the rules of the agri-environmental measures are more detailed and strict and the EAM-payment is reduced (as displayed in tab. 1), therefore the services are higher and therefore the EU-Commission accepted the programs by the German states. Following a question of Alan Matthews, the way I put this option in this post is probably not very precise in legal sense. The legal logic is rather the other way: Farmers participate in the agri-environmental measure (AEM) and can register their measure as EFA. And if they do, they receive a reduced payment.

The agri-environmental programs of the federal states show that only some German states are using this additional support and only for some of the EFA-options. This creates a very heterogeneous picture, which is displayed in table 2:

Table 2: Table: Additional support of ecological focus area by agri-environmental programs in the federal states of Germany.

The table shows that some federal states use this additional option extensively like Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt (all with three options) and some East-German states like Saxony and Brandenburg, but also Saarland and Hessen don’t use this option at all. Some of the options are more strongly supported, like buffer strips (in 9 states) and nitrogen fixing crops (in 5 states with payment), and on the other hand fallow land is only supported in two states, and the forestry options are not supported at all.

The key question here is on the effect of this additional support. We might very simple look on the figures of the states, which use supporting options and find out, whether we can determine higher shares of the respective option. However, the answer to this question is not as easy, since this goes to more general issue on how farmers decide on the choice of EFA-types. And here we see conflicting determinants of decision, which probably overlap with the incentive of agri-environmental measures. Besides this, we know the existing options, but we do not know (so far) to what extent farmers use the specific option and participate in agri-environmental measures eligible for EFA.

To the more easy and obvious question, whether we can directly discover statistical evidence, I will give a try. This is done, by separating the EFA-figures of the federal states with additional support and without. The result is displayed in table 3:

Table 3: Impact of additional support by agri-environmental measures on EFA uptake
(The figures indicate shares of the respective option in states with and without additional AEM-support)

First of all, the main issue is, whether we can observe a higher uptake of the measures, which are additionally supported. This is the case of buffer strips, catch crops and nitrogen fixing crops with a higher share within the states with support. However, the rest of the results is rather puzzling: In many federal states with support, the share of the supported EFA-options is lower or even substantially lower like in the case of fallow land. And on the other hand, the additional of Nitrogen fixing crops and catch crops is marginal with 20 and 75 €/ha, therefore here the factors leading for an high uptake might be others.

For instance, in Lower Saxony, which supports 4 options, the participation rate is not 100% clear. In 2015, 10.866 of 39.500 farms in Lower Saxony were working under agri-environmental schemes (including the organic farming support and all grassland-programs), which is just 27% of all farms. To figure out an impact, we would need to know, how many farms use the combination of EFA and EAM, because with low participation rates AEM can’t simply exert any impact on EFA. And this was probably the case in many federal states displayed here.

Finally, only buffer-strips we might observe a small impact, for the rest of the options AEM are not leading to high rates of uptake in absolute terms. We might conclude, that the additional incentive of AEM is outweighed by other factors in the decision process.

Coming to the conclusion:  The advantage of this option is the comparatively easy application within the existing CAP-framework. So states can decide to take this option and improve the effectiveness of EFA. If we don’t want to loose five years for biodiversity, we might still want to consider this option, even if this has a number of drawbacks like double funding and even more complicated requirements: Farmers in this case need to fulfill the requirements of two systems, where sometimes one is already too complicated.

The additional support of AEM is so far rather a theoretical option and the rates of uptake do not give strong arguments for this option. Greening is not effective and highly inefficient. And at the end of the day, with additional support of EFA we take away money from other, much more effective support schemes within the agri-environmental measures, which are essential for the support of biodiversity in agriculture. So the final long-run conclusion is (again) to abolish Greening, shift money into pillar two and to extend agri-environmental measure instead of sticking to the ineffective and inefficient instrument of ecological focus area.

Greening 2015: First preliminary data show necessity for further reform

13. April 2016

As one main element of the EU’s CAP-Reform 2013, the Greening of EU Direct Payments has been implemented for in 2015 the first year. In the last weeks some first data on the implementation of Greening and the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) were unofficially presented by the EU Commission. I want to share these data and do a bit of commenting on them.

As already reported on this website, farmers have to fulfill three criteria (crop diversification, maintenance of permanent grassland and the ecological focus area (EFA)) to receive 30% of the direct payments. There are some exemptions for very small farms (< 10 ha), some simplified criteria for small farms (10-30 ha) and some exemptions for farms with a high share of permanent grassland or fodder production on arable land. The EU-Commission provides some general information  on greening and the member-states had some flexibilities in the implementation of Greening on a national level. So most of the information were provided by national authorities, since the Greening-regulations are dependent on the decisions taken in the member-states.

In December 2015, EU member states had to report the figures of the first year of implementation to the EU-Commission. On this website, I already reported on the implementation of Greening and EFA in Germany, since the German ministries (in the Federal States and in Berlin/Bonn) published the implementation data in great detail. So it was possible to draw some first conclusions, even though it is clear, that farmers choices will still change to some extent in the next years, when all the details are known and farmers have more time to take their decisions how to comply to Greening.

Ploughing 2016 in Northern Germany

Ploughing 2016 on the island of Föhr, in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany

The EU-Commission also published a document on the national choices with respect to all the flexible element of the CAP-Reform. From this document, it is clear that on the  national states took the full flexibility of national decision. With respect to the ecological focus area, different options are offered on the national level. The following figure 1 shows the number of countries in which the different EFA-options are chosen:

Figure 1: Number of EU-member states offering the different EFA-options

Fig. 1: Number of EU-member states offering the different EFA-options (Source: European Commission 2015: Direct payments post 2014 Decisions taken by Member States by 1 August 2014 – State of play on 07.05.2015-, Brussels, 
url: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/direct-support/direct-payments/docs/direct-payments-schemes_en.pdf)

So the most chosen option are 1.) nitrogen fixing crops, 2.) land lying fallow and 3.) Landscape features. Figure 2 illustrates the number of options chosen in the EU member-states:

Figure 2: Number of chosen EFA-options by the EU-member states

Fig. 2: Number of chosen EFA-options by the EU-member states (Source: European Commission 2015: Direct payments post 2014 Decisions taken by Member States by 1 August 2014 – State of play on 07.05.2015-, Brussels, 
url: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/direct-support/direct-payments/docs/direct-payments-schemes_en.pdf )

14 member states have chosen 10 or more EFA-options. Obviously, large countries like Germany, France, Italy and Hungary took the administrative challenge to provide a large number of options for their farmers (17-18 EFA options), which also includes a substantial administrative costs. On the other hand, nine of the member states only offered a moderate choice of 5-9 EFA options and only five member states offered rather few options to their farmers (2-4 EFA options).

Greening causes substantial administration costs and efforts

We know the offered EFA-options in the member states and some implementation data from single member-states. But it turned out to be very difficult to get concrete EFA-data from other member-states. Some ministries were very constructive and helpful and gave data to our research-group. However, even the EU could not get all the data by 15.December 2015. It was obviously difficult to implement Greening into the EU’s Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) of direct payments. Many representatives, to which we were talking to in the last months, reported difficulties in implementing Greening. The result is, that many countries delivered the data from January to March 2016, and France is still to deliver. Besides the control and administration systems of Pillar II. and of Cross Compliance (CC), we now find a third bundle of regulations, where the administration has to perform controls and register data etc.. So the term „simplification“ is not meaningless in that sense, that the implementation of Greening causes a lot of administrative burden and the overlap of three different control scheme needs simplification. And simplifying without reducing the ecological impact, will be a great challenge of the next mini-reform 2017.

EU-Implementation of Greening & Ecological Focus Area 2015

The EU-Commission announced to publish the first detailed evaluation of data in May/June 2016, however at different conferences in the last weeks, some preliminary data were presented. On April 05, 2016, the European Landowners Organization (ELO) held a meeting titled “A Sustainable European Agriculture: Is Greening the Way Forward?„. At this meeting, Joost Korte, (Deputy Director-General at the DG Agri in the EU Commission) reported some first preliminary figures on Greening on the EU-level. Those figures (probably) do not include the data from France. I also received data from other sources in Brussels, however these figures are preliminary (!) and still subject to data control. However, I still want to present the data here to give some first ideas, how Greening was implemented in Europe. The debate on the further development of Greening will be done this year, because on March 31, 2017 the EU Commission will present a report on the implementation. The public needs to follow up in the debate and influence the discussion. Therefore, even preliminary data might help.

The first figures are about the question, on how much land Greening was implemented: On 73% of the land, at least one Greening criterion was implemented and around 40% of the farms had to comply to at least one criterion. Crop diversification was relevant on 79% of the EU arable land. 67% of the arable land was with obligations of 3 crops, and 12% of 2 crops. This means that 21% of the arable land was excluded from Crop Diversification, which is even more than the first estimates of Pe’er et al. (2014, in Science), who estimated 13% of the arable land to be excluded.

My own calculations and also the calculations of Thünen Institute estimate that around 10% of the farms have problems with the Crop Diversification criterion, but Farmers need to do only small adjustments. In Germany, the main effect of Crop Diversification is to correct a bit of the negative side-effects of the national Biogas-support, which lead to a high share of maize in the crop rotations. Maize is the main crop, which causes problems in Crop Diversification. I would suggest to correct the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in Germany and leave away the Crop Diversification criterion. I don’t see much of an effect.

Based on Mr. Korte’s report, the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) was relevant on 70% of the arable land. I.e. 30% of the arable land is exempted. The farmers mainly implemented land lying fallow (35% of the arable land after applying the weighting factors), nitrogen fixing crops (38%) and catch crops (15%). Landscape elements (4.5%) and buffer strips (5.9%) are of minor importance.

Other sources from Brussels also report, that there is substantial ‚overbooking‘ on EFA: EFA has a share of 16% of the arable land subject to EFA before applying the weighting factors (WF) and 10% after WF. However, the obligation is just 5% (after weighting factors), so farmers registered far more than necessary in order to avoid problems with controls. This also suggests, that the main debate should not be about the questions whether 5% or 7% of the arable land are necessary. It should be more about which options are useful and effective to target biodiversity problems.

The preliminary land-shares of the different EFA-options are shown in figure 3:

Fig. 3: EFA Choices in the EU 2015 as shares of EFA-area in per cent

Fig. 3: EFA Choices in the EU 2015 as shares of EFA-area in per cent (Source: Preliminary data presented by the EU Commission 2016)

The ‚productive options‘ catch crops and nitrogen fixing crops together take the largest part (53%). Landscape elements and buffer strips, as very effective measures to protect species and link structures within the landscape, have only 11% of arable land (after applying WF). Note that the real shares are given by the figures before applying weighting factors (WF), so the proportion of landscape elements and buffer strips are around 5% alltogether. Countries with the largest shares of landscape elements are Ireland (by far!), United Kingdom, Malta, (surprisingly) Germany and Sweden. Buffer strips are of the registered in Denmark, United Kingdom and Ireland. Also interesting is the fact, that many of the two forest-options don’t play a role: There is a bit of short rotation coppice in Finland and Denmark and a bit afforested area in Portugal, Poland, Hungary and Spain. But on the EU-levels, these options play with 1% a minor role.

If we take a look into the main reform document, EU-Regulation No. 1307/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013, into argument (44), we find the main motivation for the Ecological Focus Area (EFA): „Ecological focus areas should be established, in particular, in order to safeguard and improve biodiversity on farms„. So EFA is about Biodiversity! Ecologists tell us, that mainly buffer strips, landscape element and land lying fallow only show a significant impact on biodiversity. The other elements might be in one or the other way beneficial for the environment in general, however their effect on biodiversity is probably rather limited.

Conclusions: A substantial reform of Greening or beyond is necessary

The preliminary data show that only about 45% of the EFA-area (after WF) useful options are chosen. If we take real area, the share is just about 26%, which is disappointing. There is a lot of water in this system, especially if we take into account the administrative costs to implement Greening. Note that the figures vary substantially between the member states. So I am already looking forward to analyze the full published data-set. Note also that some national experts evaluate the EFA-effects a bit differently across the countries.

The figures clearly show: Greening and the EFA is not the best instrument to perform targeted support of biodiversity and especially endangered species! EFA might contribute for a more broad extensification of arable land – if we take this as an objective for EFA. So from an environmental point it might be worth to think about a pragmatic improvement of EFA. But we need other more effective instruments for a targeted support of biodiversity and endangered species. Greening and EFA are not the solution to this problem.

It is still to early to give a final comment on the figures, since we don’t have more precise and detailed data. And 2015 is just the first year, so given the low commodity prices for agricultural goods, I would expect e.g. the fallow land to be chosen more often in 2016. Also the buffer strips might gain a bit, since the regulations are more clear this year and farmers know how to implement buffer strips.

On the other hand, my two main argument would still be the low efficiency of EFA and Greening and missing effectiveness for endangered species. And remember: The endangered species are the main objective of EFA. This still highlights the potential but also the necessity to substantially adjust the EFA-measures and to financially increase the share of Pillar II and also to reform Pillar II-programs. I will comeback to this in a few months, when more data are available.

Did I miss something or is something unclear? Just write or comment, I am happy about feedback!

Thanks to Dr. Jürgen Wilhelm from the Ministry for Agriculture in Lower Saxony for presenting some of the data in Loccum and for fruitful discussion. Also note that not all data stem from Dr. Wilhelm and I won’t take any guarantee on the data, which are still preliminary.

Greening and Ecological Focus Area: First Data on Decisions in Germany

7. Oktober 2015

Some weeks ago, we asked on this blog how farmers would implement Greening 2015 and which options they would choose in order to comply with the criterion of the ‘ecological focus area (EFA)’. The main message was that farmers would probably prefer to use the options of catch crops, nitrogen-fixing crops and fallow land, since they provide cost-advantages against the classical biodiversity options such as buffer-strips and landscape elements. This expectation was also based on the fact, that the latter go alongside with legal insecurity. In addition, structural policies and the practise of direct-payments before 2013 lead to a situation, where farmers would rather exclude landscape elements from their registered farm land. Overall, the expectation was that landscape-elements and buffer-strips (as the most effective options to support biodiversity) would hardly be chosen by farmers.

EFA Fallow land in the region of Göttingen

EFA Fallow land in the region of Göttingen

In May, the EU-Commission published a detailed report on the implementation of the CAP-reform. Most of EU-member-states (MS) have offered a number of EFA-options (see a report from the EU-commission on the CAP-reform implementation), 14 MS are offering 10 EFA-options and more, 9 MS are offering between 5 and 9 EFA-options. Only in 5 MS the choice is restricted to max. 4 EFA-options. So the choice within most member-states is quite broad and it is going to be an interesting topic to observe how farmers finally decide.

Development of legumes and fallow land in 2015

During this summer there were some press-releases and reports were published, that document the impact of ‚Greening‘ on farms in Germany. On August 03, 2015 the Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis) published some preliminary production data. According those data ‚Legumes‘ (74%) and ‚Fallow Land‘ (+62%) have drastically increased in Germany. The following fig.1 shows the increment of legumes from 2014 to 2015.

Fig 1. Growth of legume production in Germany 2014 to 2015 Source: own calculations, data from Destatis 2015

Fig. 1. Growth of legume production in Germany 2014 to 2015 Source: own calculations, data from Destatis 2015

The main production area are in Eastern Germany and Hesse with shares between 2% and 3% of the total arable. In contrast, in most western states we find just shares of 0.5%. In Eastern Germany this can be explained by economies of scale, i.e. larger average farm-size and the available harvesting machines for harvesting legumes. Appropriate machinery and harvesting techniques are important, since harvesting legumes is often regarded as one of the main problems in legume-production.

However, the impact of Greening is only a turn-back to the shares of the mid-2000s. At the moment, legume production has reached almost the level of 2005 (95%). Since 2004, the production mainly of beans has drastically declined (as shown in fig. 2):

Fig 2. Harvested legumes in Germany from 2004 to 2014 (1,000 t) (Source: Agrarmarkt-Information 2010, 2015)

Fig. 2. Harvested legumes in Germany from 2004 to 2014 (1,000 t)
(Source: Agrarmarkt-Information 2010, 2015)

A similar effect (+62%) can be observed on fallow land, which has been decreasing after the ‚Health-Check-Reform‘ 2009. And here again, the shares have been substantially higher in the mid-2000s: The share of fallow land is just a 37% of the share in 2005.

Overall, my expectation would be that the observed growth of legumes won’t be sustainable. If Greening gives incentives to produce legumes and ‘fallow land’, farmers will follow, especially because other options are much more costly. However, as soon as those incentives fall, the shares of legumes and fallow land might decrease again.

Any market impacts of Greening?

In addition, it is unclear how the market-equilibrium of legumes is affected by Greening and how supply and prices of beans and peas develop. If all legumes are finally harvested and processed, we might observe and oversupply and prices might drop substantially. The price of legumes is displayed in figure 3:

Fig 3. Prices for Legumes and Soybean meal in Germany 2007-2015 Source: Agrarmarkt-information 2010/2015

Fig. 3. Prices for Legumes and Soybean meal in Germany 2007-2015
Source: Agrarmarkt-information 2010/2015

So far this does not seem to be the case: During the summer we could observe prices for peas and beans of 150-185 €/t, which is still above the low level of the years 2009/2010. During this low-price period prices use to reach a low level of 100-140 €/t. The price-drop of legumes after harvest 2014 until Sept. 2015 is rather due to the general decreasing price-trend on the world-market followed also by legumes.  It might be that a share of farmers finally did not harvest the legumes and rather used it as a green nitrogen-fertilizer and that some of the produced legumes are not appearing as supply on the market. (But this is just speculation.)

Reports of Ecological Focus Area in Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt

The Statistical Office of Lower Saxony has also published detailed data on the registration of Ecological Focus Area (compare Dahl 2015, in the monthly statistical report 08/2015). The data document that fallow-land and catch-crops are the most important option chosen by farmers in Lower-Saxony (See fig. 4):

Fig 4. Ecological Focus Area in Lower Saxony 2015 (Source: data from Dahl 2015)

Fig. 4. Ecological Focus Area in Lower Saxony 2015
(Source: own calculations, data from Dahl 2015)

Fallow land and catch crops take 95% of the total EFA in Lower Saxony. The high share of catch-crops is not surprising. For catch crops it is necessary to use a summer-crop, mainly with sugar beet (which has a high share in Lower Saxony) catch crops are useful, because it also avoids soil-born diseases and nematodes. According our calculations (published in Natur & Landschaft in June 2015) catch crops have the lowest costs of all EFA-options.

Dahl has prepared the same data for six production regions in Lower-Saxony (11 of all counties don’t belong to those regions):

Tab 1: Production Regions in Lower Saxony (Dahl 2015)

Region Main type of farming
Western Lower-Saxony Pig- & poultry production
Costal Region, East Frisia Milk farming
Lüneburg Heath Potato-production
Lower Saxon Börde Arable farming
Southern Lower Saxony Arable farming
Old Country
(between Hamburg & Bremen)
Fruit-production,
milk & mixed farming

 

The following fig. 5 show the regional reports of Ecological Focus Area (EFA):

Fig. 5: Options for the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) in the Regions of Lower Saxony (Source: based on Dahl 2015)

Fig. 5: Options for the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) in the Regions of Lower Saxony (Source: own calculations, based on Dahl 2015)

We can see, that decisions in the regions vary substantially. We can observe high shares of fallow land in the arable regions ‚Börde‘ and ‚Southern Lower Saxony‘. However, this might be due to small sizes of land plots. And within the respective counties, there are plots with lower productivity, where fallow land is then applied. Under sawn crops are mainly chosen in regions with a higher share of grassland (‚Old Country‘, ‚East Frisia‘), which can obviously be combined with the production of fodder-grain. A similar statistics on EFA in Saxony-Anhalt gives a different picture (Fig. 6):

Fig. 6: Ecological Focus Area in Saxony-Anhalt 2015 (Source: own calculation, data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment in Saxony-Anhalt 2015)

Fig. 6: Ecological Focus Area in Saxony-Anhalt 2015 (Source: own calculations, data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment in Saxony-Anhalt 2015)

This is fully consistent with the statistics above: Farms in East-Germany are using the option of legumes, which take a share of 24% – in contrast in Lower Saxony, where legumes have only a share of 2.4%. This might be explained by economies of scale: The average farm size in East-Germany is larger and farms also have better harvesting techniques.

Conclusions

Overall, the share of landscape elements and buffer strips is very low, around 2% in both states. Landscape elements and buffer strips could be the most effective and useful options to support the maintenance of biodiversity in agri-ecosystems. However, this options as almost not chosen.

  • This might be explained by the recommendation of the official advisory services to register mainly catch-crops, fallow land and legumes for legal security reason.
  • Legal issue and insecurities, and in East Germany fragmented land-ownership might explain the low use of landscape elements. If e.g. hedges are used for EFA, the diverse land-owners of this hedge need to accept this options, which might cause problems and a lot of communication and transaction cost.
  • Structural policy and the control practise of cross-compliance have rather given incentives for farmers, to exclude landscape elements form their core-farmland and sell it to the local communities. Therefore, a lot of farmers do not own their former landscape elements anymore.
  • Finally, planting a new landscape element is (probably) the most costly options to comply with the ecological focus area. The greening component (87 EUR/ha) is not enough to cover investment- and maintenance-costs of landscape elements. Therefore, greening is not the appropriate measure to support landscape elements.
  • Interestingly, the option of buffer-strips also has a very low share. Buffer-strips are sometimes also additionally supported by agri-environmental measures in the II. pillar. This sounds attractive, but in practice there are a lot of restrictions and requirements: e.g. in Saxony-Anhalt, this support of the II. pillar is restricted to only 2.5 hectares per farm. With an regional average farm-size of ca. 400 ha, about 12,5 ha would be necessary to comply with EFA. Therefore, this highly supported combination does not seem to be attractive for farmers.

Finally, these results are only the first round of 2015 and for two regions, where arable farming plays an important role. I have picked those federal states, since biodiversity indicator show that landscape deficits are high especially in the main arable regions (‚Börde‘) of those two federal states. The results for the states are rather poor. It will be interesting to investigate other regions as well and to observe the development during the next years. However, a substantial increment of landscape elements and buffer-strips from my point of view doesn’t seem to be very realistic.

The figures document that farmers react according the general expectations and incentives and they use the given production option of Greening. A moderate small impact on biodiversity might still come from fallow land, however, overall Greening shows to be mostly ineffective to protect biodiversity. The EU-commission and the supporters of the greening-concept need to answer questions, such as how we can justify the greening-component of 1.5 Billion EUR per year in Germany, which has little effect on biodiversity and windfall gains for farmers between 70% and 90% of the greening component. Even the most severe measure, the ‚ecological focus area‘ seems to show almost no effect on biodiversity, but restrictions for farmers entrepreneurial decision and a substantial amount of administration for both farmer and state.

Implementation of CAP-reform 2013: The single country overview

5. Mai 2014

As already described in my last post, I did a detailed review on the decision of the EU-member on how to use the three flexibility elements of the CAP-reform 2013. I focused on 1.) the re-coupling of direct payments, 2.) the reallocation of funds between the pillars and 3.) the redistribution options. The EU-member-states have to report their final decision until August 1, 2014. There has been a discussion whether the flexibility elements improve or if they deteriorate the CAP-reform 2013. Therefore, it might be useful, to get an overview on how countries use this flexibility.

Here is the table overview on the CAP-reform-implementation in the single member-states.

These information were gathered by internet-search, Agra Europe (diff. Issues), and by the support of different experts and colleagues of mine. Therefore great thanks to: Alex Lotman (Estonia), Oana Tanasache (Romania), Sebastian Hess (Sweden), Ewa Rabinowicz (Sweden) Anne van Doorn (Netherlands), Marian Stuiver (Netherlands), Sergio Araujo Enciso (Spain), Tomás García Azcárate (Spain) and Thelma Brenes Muñoz (expert for Portugal!). Besides this, I received responses on my requests and support from the ministries of Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Finland and Hungary, thanks a lot for supporting this search!

This table is presented according my best knowledge, so no guarantee on the details. Any comments, questions, corrections or further information are welcomed: slakner@gwdg.de

A very interesting and detailed timeline for the implementation in United Kingdom from DEFRA can be found here: CAP-reform timeline UK.