The newly introduced CAP Eco-scheme has a great potential to drive transition to more sustainable farming systems, according to a new report by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), commissioned by the European organic sector organisation IFOAM EU.
While the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is currently being negotiated in EU institutions, Member States have begun to define their priorities through the CAP Strategic Plans. The Eco-scheme is one of the main innovations of the new CAP proposal, but many uncertainties remain about its content, funding and implementation.
According to Jan Plagge, IFOAM EU President: "If adequately programmed, Eco-schemes would represent a huge opportunity for farmers to be remunerated for the public goods they provide. This success depends on financial incentives, which go hand in hand with IFOAM EU’s first recommendation to ringfence 70% of the CAP budget for environmental and climate action."
IFOAM EU’s new guide "Using Eco-schemes in the new CAP’" provides support to policymakers, Member State officials and all stakeholders in the public or private sector involved in programming processes of the CAP Strategic Plans. It allows one to get a better understanding of this new policy tool, its strengths and weaknesses but also includes more technical support for implementation, such as choosing the payment model and finding the most appropriate measures.
A wide range of interventions that could be eligible for Eco-schemes are presented in the publication, including systems-based approaches such as organic farming, conservation agriculture, the protection and maintenance of High-Nature Value (HNV) farmland areas or agroforestry. Recommendations also cover support to identify the main problems and barriers to develop effective and efficient measures, as well as guidance for the monitoring and evaluation of Eco-schemes.
Dr Matthias Stolze, Head of the Department of Socio-economics at FIBL and a co-author of the report, said: "The full potential of Eco-schemes has not yet been recognised. There is a scope to use sustainability assessment tools to focus actions on real needs and to monitor outcomes on farms. For Eco-schemes to achieve their full potential, there is a need to ensure the allocation of sufficient resources and political support for the implementation of innovative approaches."
For the organic movement, Eco-schemes could help the uptake of system-based and agroecological approaches if they are planned in coherence with other policy developments, such as the Green New Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, the EU Strategy for Biodiversity and a new Organic Action Plan.