EU policy instruments driving soil management in view of climate adaptation
In the broad context of agricultural activities farmers’ operate in a complex web of external factors/drivers (agro-environmental policy, agri-business sector, natural resources, market), site-specific and personal characteristics (farm size, soils, agro-eco zoning location, infrastructure, machinery, human resources, expertise), resources inputs and outputs (labor, capital, energy), all requiring decisions to be made at short range (e.g., land occupation and crop selection, how much to fertilize/irrigate where and when) and long range (e.g. cropping system design, conservation agriculture, rotation, organic farming).
Public policies play an important role in farmers’ and other actors’ decisions influencing sustainability of crop production. In fact, unlike many other sectors, agriculture is one in which direct public intervention remains the norm rather than the exception. This makes farming activity sensitive to changes in public policy. Farmers’ decisions are heavily influenced by market support, direct payments, agri-environmental policy and environmental legislation European Environment Agency, 2015. According to Mills et al. (2017), other factors are important in the influencing farmer environmental decision-making, e.g. the attitudes of farmers, as well as the cultural, social and economic pressure that a farmer experiences.
The overall aim of CLIMASOMA is to contribute to an alignment of research strategies connecting agricultural management, soil quality and climate adaptation potential through its summary of the literature, its meta-analysis and its identification of knowledge gaps.
The European Commission published a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection in September 2006, including an impact assessment and proposal for a Soils Framework Directive (SFD).
”Soil is a resource of common interest to the Community, although mainly private owned, and failure to protect it will undermine sustainability and long term competitiveness in Europe. Moreover, soil degradation has strong impacts on other areas of common interest to the Community, such as water, human health, climate change, nature and biodiversity protection, and food safety.”
Commission of the European Communities, 2006.
In addition to establishing a common framework to protect soil on the basis of the principles of preservation of soil functions, prevention of soil degradation, mitigation of its effects, restoration of degraded soils, interestingly, the SFD also included the requirement to ”identify, describe and assess the impact of some sectoral policies on soil degradation processes with a view to protect soil functions” Commission of the European Communities, 2006. Due to the opposition from several Member States, the Soil Framework Directive never entered into force, there is still no European-wide political concept for soil protection. The main soil protection policies are directly linked with the cross-compliance system, greening requirements and Rural development policy (actual CAP 2014-2022). Soil protection also appears in the new Common Agricultural Policy, and indirectly linked with other sectorial policies (e.g. such as the Water Framework Directive, the Sustainable Use of Pesticide Directive, etc.). This chapter presents an inventory describing relevant EU-level agricultural, rural and environmental policies and their specific instruments impacting sustainable soil management practices for climate change adaptation, derived from official published data (e.g. Directive, Regulation, Rural Development programmes, Public report, EU funded projects
The inventory is mainly focused on sustainable soil management practices as climate change adaptation tools, as defined in the stocktaking on the impact of Soil Management practices conducted as part of EJP SOIL T2.4.1 Paz, 2021, broadly grouped into the following’s categories:
- Soil tillage and soil cover (e.g. No till, Reduction of soil compaction etc.)
- Crop and cropping system (rotation, Associations/intercropping/multiple cropping/sequential crop etc.)
- Soil nutrient management and crop protection (Use of organic fertilizers, Methods for efficient fertilization etc.)
- Water Management (Drainage systems, irrigation scheduling etc.)
Furthermore, instruments not directly linked with sustainable soil management practices, such of those related to the disaster risk reduction and risk management are also considered.
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; the farming sector needs to adapt to climate change. Soil management is one tool farmers have to respond (Adapt) to climate change. Public policies play an important role in farmers’ decisions influencing sustainability of crop production. The potential solutions, that are relevant for the CLIMASOMA project, offered by policies at various governance levels for adapting to climate change, namely through programmes and by introducing adaptation measures at farm level, have been identified in the inventory.
#Background and context
In the broad context of agricultural activities farmers operate in a complex web of external factors/drivers (agro-environmental policy, agri-business sector, natural resources, market), site-specific and personal characteristics (farm size, soils, agro-eco zoning location, infrastructure, machinery, human resources, expertise), resources inputs and outputs (labor, capital, energy). Farmers make decisions at various time scales, ranging from the short range (e.g., land occupation and crop selection, how much to fertilize/irrigate where and when) to the long range (e.g. cropping system design, conservation agriculture, rotation, organic farming).
Public policies play an important role in farmers’ decisions and those decisions influence the sustainability of crop production. In fact, unlike many other sectors, direct public intervention remains the norm in the agricultural sector rather than the exception (The current represents around one third of the total EU budget). This makes farming activity sensitive to changes in public policy. Farmers’ decisions are heavily influenced by market support, direct payments, agri-environmental policy and environmental legislation.
In September 2006 the European Commission published a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection, including an impact assessment and proposal for a Soils Framework Directive (SFD). The Commission stated at the time: ”Soil is a resource of common interest to the Community, although mainly private owned, and failure to protect it will undermine sustainability and long-term competitiveness in Europe. Moreover, soil degradation has strong impacts on other areas of common interest to the Community, such as water, human health, climate change, nature and biodiversity protection, and food safety.” Commission of the European Communities, 2006. Due to the opposition from several Member States, the Soil Framework Directive never entered into force, there is still no European-wide political concept for soil protection. The main soil protection policies are directly linked with the cross-compliance system(Cross-compliance (see Annex I for details) is a mechanism that links elements of both pillars of the CAP to farmers' compliance with various basic standards, and good practice. Its mission is essentially to help agriculture to develop sustainably and link the CAP better to other EU policies, including in the area of the environment and climate.), greening requirements and rural development policy (actual CAP 2014-2022). Soil protection also appears in the new Common Agricultural Policy, and indirectly on other sectorial policies such as the Water Framework Directive, the Sustainable Use of Pesticide Directive, etc.
This chapter presents an inventory describing relevant EU-level agricultural, rural and environmental policies and their specific instruments impacting sustainable soil management practices for climate change adaptation.
The information gathered in this work is the result of a review of the available literature on EU policy and policy instruments. Farmer interviews or stakeholder workshops were not included in the current methodology but would most probably help gain valuable insights in the impact of existing policy on farmer decision-making.
The inventory is mainly focused on sustainable soil management practices as climate change adaptation tools, as defined in the stocktaking on the impact of Soil Management practices conducted as part of EJP SOIL T2.4.1 Paz, 2021. The partners provided information on practices applied in their country and the estimated impacts of these practices on soil challenges.
shows a subset of the identified sustainable soil management practices related to its impact of adaptation to climate change (a complete list of management practices is given in Annex 1, Supplementary materials Chapter 2 ).
#Table: 1Sustainable soil management practices and soils challenges
4.1. Soil tillage and soil cover
4.1.3. Reduced tillage
4.1.6. Controlled traffic
4.1.7. Low pressure (in) tires
4.1.8. Reduction of soil compaction
4.2 Crop and cropping system
4.2.1. Crop rotations
4.2.4 grassland/pasture with legumes
4.3. Soil nutrient management and crop protection
4.3.1. Use of organic fertilizers
4.4. Water Management
4.4.1. Water Use Efficiency
4.4.2. Efficient irrigation systems
4.4.3. Irrigation scheduling
4.4.5. Monitoring of soil salinisation
4.4.7. Improve water storage capacity
Adaptation to climate change was the main impact of sustainable soil management practices in the water management category where the most reported were: irrigation scheduling, efficient irrigation systems, improve water storage capacity, drainage and determination of water use efficiency. Also contributing to adaptation, were reported practices to reduce soil erosion, improve soil structure, improve the soil water retention (e.g. direct seeding/no till/reduced till, low pressure in tires, controlled traffic, crop rotation) or decrease surface temperature (mulching).
#Identification and description of key policy instruments
shows the most relevant agro-environmental policies in the EU and related instruments directly and indirectly impacting farming practices and management in relation to climate change adaptation. The table is derived from official, published data (e.g. Directives, Regulations, Rural Development programmes. Public reports, EU funded projects…).
#Table: 2Synthesis of main EU Policies relevant on farming practices and management in relation to climate change adaptation
Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) 2014-2022
CAP is a key EU policy in a strategic sector in terms of enhance agricultural competitiveness, improve its sustainability and achieve greater effectiveness. To accomplish those challenges the CAP is organised into two pillars:
The CAP Pillar I targets two main objectives: 1) Improvement of farm competitiveness by enhancing market orientation, removing all existing restrictions to production through market intervention, and providing income support – through basic payments and coupled support, 2) provision of environmental public goods, through the “Greening payments”.
The CAP Pillar II (Rural Development Policy 2014-2020) aims to pursue six priorities: 1) knowledge transfer, innovation, 2) organization of agri-food chains 3) risk management 4) ecosystem protection 5) contrast to climate change and CO2 reduction 6) social inclusion and development in rural areas.
Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) 2023-2027
In 2018, the European Commission presented legislative proposals on the common agricultural policy beyond 2020.
The post-2020 CAP reform set out 9 specific objectives to meet broad ongoing challenges related to the economic health of the farm sector, the environment and climate, and socio-economic development of EU's rural areas.
The most important elements introduced in the proposal of the new CAP are represented by:
The European Green Deal
COM(2019) 640 final
(including the EU Adaptation to Climate Change, farm to fork and biodiversity strategies, and EU Soil Strategy for 2030)
The EU Green Deal provides a roadmap to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Green Deal touches upon specific policy areas (Measures to cut pollution rapidly and efficiently, clean energy, sustainable industry, etc). The agricultural sector is asked to promote ways to ensure more sustainable food systems, through the farm to fork and biodiversity strategies.
Nitrate Directive (ND) - (Directive 91/676/EEC), and Groundwater Directive (GWD) (Directive 2006/118/EC)
The Nitrate Directive aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrate from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices. The groundwater directive aims to protect groundwater against pollution and deterioration. This include procedures for assessing the chemical composition of groundwater and measures to reduce levels of pollutants.
Water Framework Directive (WFD) - (Directive 2000/60/EC)
The water framework directive aims to achieve a good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies in the EU. It intends to contribute to preserve, protect and improve environmental quality and the prudent and rational use of natural resources, introducing several new ecological, economic and social approaches and concepts in the EU water management (e.g. good ecological status, full cost recovery, public participation).
Sustainable Use of Pesticide Directive (PD) - (Directive 2009/128/CE)
The pesticide directive establishes a framework to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides by reducing the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment and promoting the use of integrated pest management and of alternative approaches or techniques such as non-chemical alternatives to pesticides.
EU mission "Caring for soil is caring for life" within the research programme Horizon Europe
Targets by 2030: at least 75% of all soils in the EU are healthy for food, people, nature and climate. The proposed mission combines research and innovation, education and training, investments and the demonstration of good practices.
LIFE (“The Financial Instrument for the Environment”)
Though soil has not been a core theme of the LIFE programme, many soil-related projects have been funded over the last 21 years, and the new LIFE Programme will increase the focus on soil.
The LIFE climate sub-programme also promotes Integrated projects that implement EU policy and strategy on climate change adaptation.
Many of the identified regulatory policies use a mix of instruments, often including both mandatory and voluntary elements. The economic instruments are those sanctioning or incentivising behaviour through market mechanisms. The CAP’s greening measures or payments, for example, are an attempt to incentivise agricultural practices that go above and beyond standards and regulations covered under Cross-compliance. In addition, funding available under the Regional Development Programmes compensates farmers for transaction costs related to the provision of in relation to providing public goods or ecosystem services. The economic instruments under the water framework directive aim to establish pricing systems reflecting real economic costs. The underlying idea is to motivate farmers to increase their water use efficiency and look for crops better adapted to the natural environment McNeill et al., 2021.
Policy approach and related instruments are complex and often operate in a policy-mix, they can be broadly grouped into the following four categories.
#Table: 3Policy approaches and Instruments
Imposing obligations, prohibitions or restrictions.
Nitrate Directive, Water Framework Directive, Sustainable Use of Pesticide Directive
CAP Cross compliance
Make bad practices/inputs more expensive to adopt
rewarding positive behaviour
CAP Pillar I subsidies
Eco-scheme (CAP Pillar I) and Agri-environmental schemes (CAP Pillar II)
European Green Deal F2F and biodiversity strategies
Facilitating instruments (Education and information)
Increasing technical capacity and know-how
Farm advisory services and cooperation under CAP Pillar II
#Description of the most relevant agro-environmental policies
The description of each instrument includes, whenever possible with the information available, the following aspects:
- Name of the instrument
- Rationale and objectives: description of the instrument and its objectives
- Geographical coverage (e.g. EU, national, regional, local)
- Targeted actors: who is targeted by the instrument?
#Common Agricultural Policies (CAP) - 2014-2022
#Rationale and objectives
CAP is in place since 1962, and over time has undergone different reforms in order to face the challenges of the sector. These reforms have increased market orientation for agriculture while providing income support and safety net mechanisms for producers. They also improved the integration of environmental requirements and reinforced support for rural development across the EU. The new policy continues along this reform path, moving from product to producer support and now to a more land-based approach. This is in response to the challenges facing the sector, many of which are driven by factors that are external to agriculture. These have been identified as:
Economic: food security and globalisation, a declining rate of productivity growth, price volatility, pressures on production costs due to high input prices and the deteriorating position of farmers in the food supply chain,
**Environmental: **resource efficiency, soil and water quality and threats to habitats and biodiversity,
**Territorial: **where rural areas are faced with demographic, economic and social developments including depopulation and relocation of businesses.
Since the role of the CAP is to provide a policy framework that supports and encourages producers to address these challenges while remaining coherent with other EU policies, this translates into three long-term CAP objectives European Commission, 2020:
- viable food production
- sustainable management of natural resources and climate action
- balanced territorial development
To achieve these long-term goals, the existing CAP instruments had to be adapted. The CAP reform 2014-2020 therefore focused on the operational objectives of delivering more effective policy instruments, designed to improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and its sustainability/effectiveness on the long term .
To accomplish those objectives, the architecture of the CAP is organised into a legislative framework based on four regulations, with one – called horizontal European Commission, 2013- dedicated to the financing, management, monitoring, and the cross-compliance rules of the CAP ().
For the period 2014-2020, PAC funding is covered by two funds:
- EAGF - European Agricultural Guarantee Fund for the First Pillar, finances direct payments to farmers and agricultural market support measures
- EAFRD - European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, co-finances national rural development programmes (RDPs).
#First pillar: direct payments & market measures
Direct payments European Commission, 2013 to farmers aim to:
- provide basic income support through the basic payments and coupled support
- provide of environmental public goods, through the “Greening payments” (practices beneficial for the climate and the environment)
Market measures European Commission, 2013 are the rules that regulate agricultural markets in the EU, as well as the EU support to specific sectors, the promotion of EU agricultural products (through marketing standards, geographical indications, labels, etc.), the market instruments (private storage, intervention) and the support to a more balanced food supply chain. International trade measures such as licences and tariffs, as well as competition rules, also come under this banner.
The changes in the direct payment scheme are amongst the most important changes introduced with the CAP 2014-2020 (together with the introduction of the greening component). In fact, the single payment scheme has been split into 7 typologies, by giving to the Member States a large flexibility in its definition, expect for the greening with a fixed 30% of the national amount of money allocated for direct payments to each member state from the European Union budget European Commission, 2020.
#Greening payment structure
Farmers can obtain greening payments () when they implement (depending on the farming typology and size) one or more of the following practices:
- crop diversification only applies to arable crops, while permanent crops (orchards, olive groves, vineyards, pastures) are exempted
- maintaining existing permanent grassland
- dedicating 5% of arable land to Ecological Focus Area (EFA), where the arable land of a holding covers more than 15 hectares, with a view to safeguarding and improving biodiversity on farms
These three practices are set by the community regulation and are the same for all farmers in the European Union, without the possibility for the Member States to change their constraints.
The purpose of the requirement for ecological focus areas on arable land is to safeguard and improve biodiversity on farms. Art. 93 of REG. (EU) No 1307/2013 establishes a list of features and areas that consist of:
- areas directly impacting biodiversity, such as land lying fallow, terraces, landscape features, buffer strips, strips along forest edges, afforested areas and agro-forestry areas; or
- areas indirectly impacting biodiversity through a reduced use of inputs on the farm, such as areas covered with short rotation coppice, catch crops and winter green cover, and nitrogen-fixing crops.
#Second pillar: rural development
Rural development European Commission, 2013 funds invest in local projects to support the socio-economic fabric of rural areas. Rural development funds can for example support the setting up of an artisan’s business, invest in sustainable irrigation systems, organise trainings for farmers, help develop agri-tourism, etc. Rural development also plays a central role for climate-related actions by supporting farm modernisation to cut energy consumption, produce renewable energy, improve input efficiency and reduce emissions.
Rural Development Policy is part of the overall programming of EU territorial/cohesion policies, defined by the Common Strategic Framework (CSF). All European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Found, Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013) should contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy for smart (developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation), sustainable (promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy) and inclusive (fostering a high employment economy which delivers on social and territorial cohesion) growth, in synergies between them.
The six priorities, reported in Figure 1, of rural development are articulated in 18 aspects, or "Focus areas" (Fa - see annex III, Supplementary materials Chapter 2 for details). The Focus areas represent one of the main new features of the new 2014-2020 rural development programming cycle. They arise from the observation that the intervention measures envisaged by the rural development plans normally contribute to more than one strategic objective.
The link to agricultural practices that improve soil quality is potentially substantial because two focus areas specifically target soil:
Focus area 4C preventing soil erosion and improving soil management
Focus area 5E fostering carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture
#Table: 4Measures of RDPs that have potential impacts on agricultural practices and/or climate change adaptation
Maximum amount (€) or rate
Potential impacts on agricultural practices and/or climate change adaption
M1) Knowledge transfer and information actions
M1.1 - Support for vocational training and skills acquisition
M1.2 - Demonstration activities and information actions
M1.3. - Support for short-term farm and forest management exchanges as well as farm and forest visits
Provider(s) of formal training and actions (which are not part of regular education programmes or curricula)
Provider(s) of demonstration activities and information actions
Provider(s) of exchanges and visits
The EU Rural Development Regulation does not set specific limits to funding allocations under M1.
Measure can potentially support vocational training, demonstration activities, information provision necessary to promote agricultural management for SICS through exchanges and visits
M2) Advisory services, farm management and farm relief services
M2.1 - Support to help benefit from the use of advisory services
M2.2 - Support for the setting up of farm management, farm relief and farm advisory services
M.2.3- Support for training of advisors
Providers of advice
The authority or body selected to set up farm management, farm relief farm advisory or forest advisory services
Entities providing the advisor training
For each Advice (voucher) € 1,500
Up to 200,000 € for 3 years for consultant training
Measure funds part of the cost of the CAP farm advisory system which Member States must provide (see ). Could support advisory services on management of soils to improve soil quality, improve the economic and environmental performance and climate friendliness and resilience.
M4) Investments in physical assets
M4.1 - Support to improve the overall performance and sustainability of an agricultural holding
Farmers or groups of farmers
40% of eligible costs (50% in less developed regions). In some cases (young farmer, organic agriculture commitment) an additional 20% can be applied.
A large spectrum of investments can be founded under this measure depending on the choose of MS/regions: purchase of new agricultural machinery and equipment conservation tillage equipment, irrigation systems, drainage system, investment in precision agriculture technology to improve soil management practice.
M5) restoring agricultural production potential damaged by natural disasters and introduction of appropriate
M 5.1) support for investments in preventive actions aimed at reducing the consequences of probable natural disasters, adverse climatic events and catastrophic events
M5.2) Support for investments for the restoration of agricultural land and production potential damaged by natural disasters, adverse climatic events and catastrophic events
Groups of farmers
100% Of the amount of eligible investment costs for prevention operations carried out collectively by more than one beneficiary
100% Of the amount of eligible investment costs for operations to restore agricultural land and production potential damaged by natural disasters and catastrophic events.
Aims of the measure is to support agricultural holdings’ resilience to climate change. This measure supports preventive actions, e.g. investments in drainage systems in northern regions where more rain is expected in the coming years, or in irrigation efficiency in southern regions where more drought and less rain is expected in the coming years.
M10) Agri-environment-climate (AEC
M 10.1) - Payment for agri-environment-climate commitments (compensation for costs incurred and income foregone)
M10.2) - Support for sustainable conservation, use and development of genetic resources in agriculture
Farmers or groups of farmers
600 €/ha per year for annual crops
900 €/ha per year for specialised perennial crops
450 €/ha for other land uses
200 €/ha Per livestock unit (LU) per year for local breeds in danger of being lost to farmers
Aim of the measure is to encourage farmers and other land managers to introduce methods of agricultural production compatible with the protection and improvement the environment, the landscape and its characteristics, natural resources, soil, water and biodiversity.
M11) Organic farming
M 11.1) - Conversion of conventional farming to organic farming
M 11.2) - Maintenance of certified organic farming
Farmers or groups of farmers
600 €/ha per year for annual crops
900 €/ha per year for specialised perennial crops
450 €/ha for other land uses
Organic farming is expected to establish and maintain a sustainable management system for agriculture. The farming practices it promotes contribute to improving soil and water quality, to mitigation and adaptation to climate change and to improved biodiversity (e.g. by avoiding use of synthetic plant protection products and synthetic fertilisers and encouraging crop rotation, use of organic fertilisers and improvement to soil organic matter).
M12) Natura 2000 & Water Framework Directive payments
M12.1) - compensation payment for Natura 2000 agricultural areas
M 12.3) - Compensation payment for agricultural areas included in river basin management plans
500 €/ha per year maximum in the initial period not exceeding five years.
50 €/ha per year minimum for Water Framework Directive payments.
The sub-measure provides compensation payments to farmers for the additional costs and income foregone when implementing the Birds, Habitats & Water Framework Directive. The measure is designed to compensate farmers and foresters for the disadvantages they face as a result of mandatory activities they carry out as a result of the legal requirements set out under this directive, compared to the situation of farmers in other areas not affected by these requirements.
M 16.1) - Support for the establishment and operation of Operational Groups (OGs) of the EIP for agricultural productivity and sustainability
Operational Groups are expected to consist of partnerships involving a wide variety of stakeholders but most importantly, “interested actors such as farmers, researchers, advisors and businesses involved in the agriculture and food sector.” OGs are meant to be bottom-up instruments providing the space for testing innovative ideas
and finding solutions for specific issues
The EU Rural Development Regulation does not set specific limits to funding allocations under M16.
Provides support for:
M 16.2) - Support for pilot projects and for the development of new products, practices, processes and technologies
OGs established under M16.1
Provides support for pilot projects and the development of new products, practices, processes and technologies in the agriculture, food and forestry sectors
M17) Risk management tools
Threshold to trigger compensation
Adverse climatic events, animal and plant disease, pest infestation, environmental incident
>20% losses in production
Up to 70% of the insurance premium
M 17.3) income stabilisation tool
Mutual fund sectorial
Mutual fund non-sectorial
Severe drop in farmer’s income
>30% losses in production
>20% drop in income
>30% drop in income
Up to 70% of:
Administrative costs of setting up mutual funding
Compensation payed by the mutual funds
Initial capital stock of the fund
#Cross-cutting (covering both CAP pillars)
Cross-compliance (see Annex I, Supplementary materials Chapter 2 for details) is a mechanism that links elements of both pillars of the CAP to farmers' compliance with various basic standards, and good practice. Its mission is essentially to help agriculture to develop sustainably and link the CAP better to other EU policies, including in the area of the environment and climate. The system includes two types of requirements:
- Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs): These requirements refer to 13 legislative standards in the field of the environment, food safety, animal and plant health and animal welfare.
- Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC): The obligation of keeping land in good agricultural and environmental condition refers to a range of standards related to soil protection, maintenance of soil organic matter and structure, avoiding the deterioration of habitats, and water management.
Through the provisions of cross-compliance, when farmers who receive Pillar I direct payments or Pillar II area-based payments do not respect the standards concerned, their payments can be reduced. Cross-compliance thus helps to provide a foundational level of action with regard to the environment and climate (as well as other concerns of EU citizens).
#Table: 5Cross-compliance rule most direct link to soil and climate
SMR: Statutory management requirement
GAEC: Standards for good agricultural and environmental condition of land
Requirements and Standards
SMR 1: Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991 concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources
GAEC 1: Establishment of buffer strips along water courses
GAEC 2: Where use of water for irrigation is subject to authorisation, compliance with authorisation procedures
GAEC 3: Protection of ground water against pollution
Soil and carbon stock
GAEC 4: Minimum soil cover
GAEC 5: Minimum land management reflecting site specific conditions to limit erosion
GAEC 6: Maintenance of soil organic matter level through appropriate practices including ban on burning arable stubble, except for plant health reasons
SMR 2: Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds
SMR 3: Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna.
Landscape, minimum level of maintenance
GAEC 7: Retention of landscape features, including, hedges, ponds, ditches, trees in line, in group or isolated, field margins and terraces, and including a ban on cutting hedges and trees during the bird breeding and rearing season and, as an option, measures for avoiding invasive plant species
Another set of cross-cutting provisions concerns the farm advisory system. All member states are required to set up/designate a farm advisory system (this can be done with the support of a rural development measure – see ). In general terms, the farm advisory system should help CAP beneficiaries become more aware of the relationship between farm practice and management, and various standards. Among the topics on which the farm advisory system must offer advice to farmers(For example, in Italy the Emilia-Romagna Region include in the advisory activities “Adaptation to climate change due to changes in water regimes”.), the following are directly linked to the environment and climate:
- the rules of cross-compliance;
- the requirements of green direct payments;
- the basic requirements of maintaining agricultural area with regard to eligibility for direct payments
- the Water Framework Directive and
- the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive
The combined and complementary effects of various instruments of the I and II pillar define the green architecture of the current CAP. This whole set of complementary policy instruments is accompanied by related training measures and other support from the farm advisory system, insights gained from the European Innovation Partnership and H2020 research, which should help farmers to implement appropriate solutions for their specific situations ().
#CAP reform - 2023-2027
On 1 June 2018, the European Commission presented the legislative proposals on the CAP beyond 2020. Following a series of trilogues (“informal tripartite meetings on legislative proposals between representatives of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission”) on December 2021, the agreement on reform of the common agricultural policy was formally adopted. The reform covers three regulations, which will generally apply from 1 January 2023 (For the years 2021 and 2022, a transitional regulation is in place, bridging the gap between current and new legislation):
Regulation (EU) 2021/2115 European Commission, 2021 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 establishing rules on support for strategic plans to be drawn up by Member States under the common agricultural policy (CAP Strategic Plans) and financed by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1305/2013 and (EU) No 1307/2013. The regulation aims to reduce the administrative burdens by the two regulations 1305 and 1307 of the current CAP of Pillar I and II. In particular for Pillar II, EU-level rules for some individual types of support will become less detailed and prescriptive. Overall, more than 20 "measures" and 64 "sub-measures" (i.e. types of support) in the current rules will be slimmed down and combined into eight broad types of intervention to be adapted to territorial and sectorial specificities of EU Member States:
- environmental, climate and other management commitments;
- natural or other area-specific constraints;
- area-specific disadvantages resulting from certain mandatory requirements;
- installation of young farmers and rural business start-up;
- risk management tools;
- knowledge exchange and information.
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2116 European Commission, 2021 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2117 European Commission, 2021 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 amending Regulations (EU) No 1308/2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products, (EU) No 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs, (EU) No 251/2014 on the definition, description, presentation, labeling and the protection of geographical indications of aromatised wine products and (EU) No 228/2013 laying down specific measures for agriculture in the outermost regions of the Union
The general objectives of the new CAP will be complemented by the cross-cutting objective of modernising the sector by fostering and sharing of knowledge, innovation and digitalisation in agriculture and rural areas, and encouraging their uptake.
The achievement of the general objectives will be pursued through the following specific objectives:
#Table: 6The 9 specific objectives of the new CAP
Modernise the sector by fostering and sharing of knowledge, innovation and digitalisation in agriculture and rural areas, and encouraging their uptake
#The New Delivery Model
In the implementation the new delivery model European Commission, 2021, policy objectives are defined at EU level and Member States are asked to draw up its strategic plan to outline how it intends to reach the EU-wide objective, based on results, rather than on compliance, reflecting the territorial and sectorial specificities of EU Member States. The national strategic plan must be approved by the commission and a performance framework consisting of a set of common context, output, result and impact indicators will be used as the basis for monitoring, evaluation and annual performance reporting .
Following the principle introduced in the 2013 reform that environmental and climate support should be available under both Pillars I and II of the CAP, the new legislative proposals also set out environmental interventions in both pillars (mandatory for Member States and voluntary for farmers).
The nature of the enhanced conditionality proposed by the Commission for the CAP post 2022 relevant for soil is shown in the . There are three sets of changes.
- (re-)incorporate the three greening practices into the conditionality, as GAEC 1 permanent pasture, GAEC 8 crop rotation (to replace crop diversification) and GAEC 9 non-productive areas (to replace Ecological Focus Areas).
- the addition of new GAEC 2 to protect carbon-rich soils, and GAEC 10 the ban on converting grassland in Natura 2000 sites.
- the addition of SMR 1 (water) and 13 (pesticide)
#Table: 7New Requirements and standards in the enhanced conditionality
Requirements and standards
Climate and environment
(mitigation of and adaptation to)
Maintenance of permanent grassland based on a ratio of permanent grassland in relation to agricultural area
New (ex greening)
Appropriate protection of wetland and peatland
Ban on burning arable stubble, except for plant health reasons
Ex GAEC 6
Directive 2000/60/EC of 23 October 2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy:
Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991 concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources (OJ L 375, 31.12.1991, p. 1):
Articles 4 and 5
Ex SMR 1
Establishment of buffer strips along water courses
Ex GAEC 1
(protection and quality)
Tillage management reducing the risk of soil degradation, including slope consideration
Ex GAEC 5
No bare soil in most sensitive period(s)
Ex GAEC 4
New (repalace crop diversification)
Biodiversity and landscape
(protection and quality)
Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (OJ L 20, 26.1.2010, p. 7):
Ex SMR 2
Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna (OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7):
Ex SMR 3
Minimum share of agricultural area devoted to non-productive features or areas
New (ex EFA greening)
EX GAEC 7
Ban on converting or ploughing permanent grassland in Natura 2000 sites
Public health, animal health and plant health
Plant protection products
Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and repealing Council Directives 79/117/EEC and 91/414/EEC (OJ L 309, 24.11.2009, p. 1):
Ex SMR 10
Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides (OJ L 309, 24.11.2009, p. 71):
The proposal for the eco-scheme under Pillar 1 constitutes the main new feature of the green architecture, replacing the green direct payments introduced in the 2014-2020 CAP. Under the proposals, Member States are required to put in place the eco-scheme, designed to address their regional or national environmental and climate needs and contribute to the CAP’s environmental and climate objectives. This moves away from the approach taken with the green direct payments whereby Member States implemented a common set of practices with detailed rules set at EU level, applicable to all eligible farmers in receipt of direct payments. The proposed eco-scheme measures therefore gives Member States more flexibility to better take into account local conditions. The other key difference is that, unlike the green direct payments’ regime, which was mandatory for eligible farmers to participate in if they wished to receive payments, the eco-scheme would be voluntary for farmers to enter into. The new green architecture in shown in .
As part of the preparatory work for the reform, the Commission has published a factsheet European Comission, 2021 with a proposal list of agricultural practices that eco-schemes could support in the future CAP national strategic plans, to fulfill Green Deal, the Farm to fork strategy and Biodiversity strategies and the climate and environmental specific objectives (SO) of the new CAP ():
- SO 4: Contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as sustainable energy
- SO 5: Foster sustainable development and efficient management of natural resources such as water, soil and air
- SO 6: Contribute to the protection of biodiversity, enhance ecosystem services and preserve habitats and landscapes
- SO 9: Improve animal welfare and address antimicrobial resistance
Eleven categories of beneficial practices are listed, substantially divided into two groups: those already codified within EU policy tools (Organic farming, Integrated Pest Management) and "other practices".
The prosed eco-schemes address one or more areas of environment, climate and animal welfare actions under the cap strategic plans:
a) Climate change mitigation: reduction of GHG emissions from agriculture, conservation carbon stocks, carbon sequestration;
b) Adaptation to climate change: increasing the resilience of food systems and diversity animal and plant for greater resistance to disease and climate change
c) Protection or improvement of water quality and reduction of pressure on water resources
d) Prevention of soil degradation, soil restoration, improvement of soil fertility and of nutrient management
e) Protection of biodiversity, conservation or restoration of habitats or species, including maintenance and creation of landscape features or non-productive areas
f) Actions for a sustainable and reduced use of pesticides, particularly pesticides that present a risk for human health or environment
g) Actions to enhance animal welfare or address antimicrobial resistance
Among the eleven categories of practices, several may have a positive direct/indirect impact on sustainable soil management practices and climate adaptation in general (areas from b to f):
- Agro-ecology including:
- Crop rotation with leguminous crops (a, b, d, f)
- Mixed cropping - multi cropping (b, d, e, f)
- Cover crop between tree rows on permanent crops - orchards, vineyards, olive trees - above conditionality (a, c, d, e, f)
- Winter soil cover and catch crops above conditionality (a, b, c, d)
- Low intensity grass-based livestock system (a, c, d, g)
- Use of crops/plant varieties more resilient to climate change (b, c, e, f)
- Mixed species/diverse sward of permanent grassland for biodiversity purpose (pollination, birds, game feedstocks) (c, d, e, f)
- High nature value (HNV) farming including
- Land lying fallow with species composition for biodiversity purpose (pollination, birds, game feedstocks, etc.) (c, e, f)
- Reduction of fertilizer use, low intensity management in arable crops (a, b, c, d, e, f, g)
- Carbon farming including
- Conservation agriculture (a, d)
- Rewetting wetlands/peatlands, paludiculture (a, c, d, e)
- Appropriate management of residues, i.e. burying of agricultural residues, seeding on residues (a, c, d)
- Establishment and maintenance of permanent grassland (a, c, d, e, f)
- Extensive use of permanent grassland (a, c, d)
- Precision farming including
- Nutrients management plan, use of innovative approaches to minimise nutrient release, optimal pH for nutrient uptake, circular agriculture (a, c, d, f)
- Precision crop farming to reduce inputs (fertilisers, water, plant protection products) (e, f)
- Improving irrigation efficiency (b)
- Improve nutrient management, including
- implementation of nitrates-related measures that go beyond the conditionality obligations (c, d, e,)
- measures to reduce and prevent water, air and soil pollution from excess nutrients such as soil sampling if not already obligatory, creation of nutrient traps (c, d, e,)
- Protecting water resources, including
- Managing crop water demand (switching to less water intensive crops, changing planting dates, optimised irrigation schedules) (b)
- Other practices beneficial for soil, including
- Erosion prevention strips and wind breaks (b, d, e,)
- Establishment or maintenance of terraces and strip cropping (b, d, e,)
#The European Green Deal
The European Green Deal European Commssion, 2019 proposal is comprehensive and ambitious. It defines a roadmap in the form of several key actions outlined in various strategies (). Some of them, notably the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and related EU Soil Strategy for 2030 European Commssion, 2021, the Farm to fork strategy European Commssion, 2020 and the various climate texts, could affect European agriculture (and soil management practices) and food in a significant way GUYOMARD & BUREAU, 2020.
Soils will play an important role in the future agricultural policy (Farm to Fork strategy), environmental protection (Biodiversity strategy) and climate change (Climate Law). Key actions in the Green Deal roadmap with significant potential impacts for soil management and climate adaption are summarized in the following table.
#Table: 8Green Deal Key actions with potential importance for soil management climate adaption
Key action roadmap
Potential importance for soil management
Potential importance for climate adaption
European Climate Law - New EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change
Could potentially affect CAP measures aimed at favouring farmers’ adaptation to climate change
Greening the CAP / “Farm to Fork Strategy”
Protect soil against pollution, enhance soil nutrient use efficiency
Promote actions to develop innovative ways, to adapt to climate change and improve sustainability of food systems.
Preserving and protecting biodiversity
EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030
Healthy soils – new EU soil strategy The goals are to:
#Rationale and objectives
The Nitrates Directive European Commission, 1991 aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices. While nitrogen is a vital nutrient that helps plants and crops to grow, high concentrations are harmful to people and nature. The agricultural use of nitrates in organic and chemical fertilisers has been a major source of water pollution in Europe. As water sources are not restricted within national boundaries, an EU wide approach was crucial to tackling the problem of pollution.
The Nitrate Directive obliges Member States to designate Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) of all known areas in Member States whose waters – including groundwater – are or are likely to be affected by nitrate pollution. Vulnerable zones are defined as those waters which contain a nitrates concentration of more than 50 mg/l or are susceptible to contain such nitrates concentration if measures are not taken. Under the Nitrates Directive, all Member States have to:
- Designate as NVZs areas of land which drain into polluted waters or waters at risk of pollution and which contribute to nitrate pollution. Member States can also choose to apply measures to the whole territory (instead of designating NVZs), based on art. 3.5 of the directive (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, the Region of Flanders and Northern Ireland have followed this approach).
- Establish of Codes of Good Agricultural Practice to be implemented by farmers on a voluntary basis: It sets out various good practices, such as measures limiting the periods when nitrogen fertilizers can be applied on land; measures limiting the conditions for fertilizer application to prevent nitrate losses from leaching and run-off; requirement for a minimum storage capacity for livestock manure; and crop rotations, soil winter cover, and catch crops to prevent nitrate leaching and run-off during wet seasons.
- Establish of action programmes to be implemented by farmers within NVZs on a compulsory basis, considering available scientific and technical data and overall environmental conditions. Action programmes must include measures already included in Codes of Good Agricultural Practice, which become mandatory in NVZs; and other measures, such as limitation of fertilizer application (mineral and organic), considering crop needs, all nitrogen inputs and soil nitrogen supply, maximum amount of livestock manure to be applied (corresponding to 170 kg nitrogen/hectare/year).
- Carry out a comprehensive monitoring programme and submit every 4 years, a report on the implementation of the Directive. The report includes information on nitrate-vulnerable zones, results of water monitoring, and a summary of the relevant aspects of codes of good agricultural practices and action programmes; The Nitrate Directive has been in place since 19 December 1991. The successive amendments and corrigenda to the Directive have been incorporated into the original text (Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003 and Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008). It is applied at European level and has been transposed to national law by member states. Member states must establish and present to the European Commission reports every 4 years on the implementation of this Directive and the commission should report regularly on the implementation of this Directive by the member states.
Geographical coverage: The Nitrate Directive has been designed at EU level and implemented at national or local scale depending on the choice made by the Member States, as shown in figure 6.
Targeted actors: The Nitrate Directive involves both public and private sectors: it is targeted to national/regional authorities, in charge of promoting local activities and strategies (planning, monitoring, etc.) as well as to farmers, asked to adopt new farming strategies (best practices) in order to reduce the pollution of nitrate.
Financial issues: No specific funds have been invested, even if specific rural development measures of agri-environment-climate payments were dedicated to nitrate rate reduction.
#Water Framework Directive (WFD)
#Rationale and objectives
The Water Framework Directive European Commission, 2000 represents the cornerstone of EU water protection policy, which requires that all EU waters should achieve good status by 2015. It seeks to provide a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater. In doing so the WFD aims to help improve freshwater quality and quantity, protect the environment and ecosystems and reduce water pollution. One of the major challenges to achieve these objectives is represented by the pollutants released into the aquatic environment from a variety of sources including agriculture, industry and incineration. The WFD aims to protect and improve the quality of water in Europe.
The WFD relates to the quality of fresh and coastal waters in EU, aiming to attain good ecological and chemical status of Europe’s fresh and coastal waters. Specifically, this includes; protecting all forms of water (inland, surface, transitional, coastal and ground); restoring the ecosystems in and around these water bodies; reducing pollution in water bodies, and; guaranteeing sustainable water use by individuals and businesses.
The WFD requires all Member States to protect and improve water quality in all waters in order to achieve good ecological status. The legislation places clear responsibilities on national authorities. They are asked for:
- identify the individual river basins on their territory - that is, the surrounding land areas that drain into river systems;
- designate authorities to manage these basins in line with the EU rules;
- analyse the features of each river basin, including the impact of human activity and an economic assessment of water use;
- monitor the status of the water in each basin;
- register protected areas, such as those used for drinking water, which require special attention;
- develop and implement “river-basin management plans” to prevent deterioration of surface water, protect and enhance groundwater and preserve protected areas. River-basin management plans include a programme of measures to be implemented in the plan horizon, that shall correspond to a cost-effective approach to achieve established objectives;
- ensure the cost of water services is recovered so that the resources are used efficiently, and polluters pay;
- provide public information and consultation on their river-basin management plans.
Geographical coverage: The WFD must be adopted at the level of the member states. The territorial entity, in which it is implemented was the river basin, now evolved in the concept of ‘river basin district’. For each river basin district - some of which will traverse national frontiers - a "river basin management plan" needs to be established and updated every six years.
Targeted actors: The WFD regards member state strategies. Even though actions and measures in river basin management plans aimed at increased water quality status are targeted on national or local policies, they also affect farmer activity directly and indirectly. Irrigation consortia for instance, are asked to provide more efficient water pricing policies able to reflect the whole (economic, social and environmental) value of water and also to plan actions for a better control of irrigation volumes.
Financial issues: One of the most innovative elements of the Water-Framework Directive is the important role that economic analysis is assigned in achieving its environmental objectives. Full recovery and polluter’s pay principle, environmental and resource costs, are some of the main economic issues that WFD promote to gain a fair allocation of scarce water resources, also under economic perspective. No specific founds have been invested to perform such economic analysis, even if specific rural development measures were dedicated to the requirements of WFD. Subsidies for the farmers action or constraints due to WFD were established, for example, in Measure 12.
Although climate change is not explicitly included in the text of the WFD, the cyclical approach of the river basin management planning process makes it well suited to adaptively manage climate change impacts. Steps in the river basin management planning process provide a structure for incorporating adaptation to climate change through: risk appraisal, monitoring and assessment, objective setting, economic analysis and Programmes of Measures to achieve environmental objectives European Comission, 2000.
#Sustainable use of Pesticide Directive (PD)
#Rationale and objectives
The Sustainable use of pesticide Directive European Commssion, 2009 requires Member States to implement policies and actions to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health, the environment and biodiversity. These policies must ensure the development and introduction of agricultural techniques that reduce reliance on pesticides, thereby lessening their risks and impacts on human health and the environment, encouraging the uptake of integrated pest management and alternative approaches or techniques, such as organic farming and the use of non-chemical alternatives to pesticides.
EU countries have drawn up National Action Plans, to implement the range of actions set out in the Directive, the main actions relate to:
- training of users, advisors and distributors
- inspection of pesticide application equipment
- the prohibition of aerial spraying
- the protection of the aquatic environment and drinking water
- limitation of pesticide use in sensitive areas
- information and awareness raising about pesticide risks
- systems for gathering information on pesticide acute poisoning incidents, as well as chronic poisoning developments, where available
Geographical coverage: The pesticide directive has been designed at EU level and implemented at national and local scale.
Targeted actors: The main entities involved in the implementation of the National Action Plans are Ministry (Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Environment, Health, Education, University and Research), and local (Regions, Provinces, Municipalities, entities managing Natura 2000 sites and protected areas) administration. Farmers and any other pesticide users, producers and distributors are the recipients of the rules established in the National Plan.
Financial issues: specific economic instruments set out in the National Action Plans.
#Relevance of policy measures and instruments addressing soil-related issues
#Common Agricultural Policy
The CAP provides various instruments and measures that may impact sustainable soil management and soil quality. The link to agricultural practices that improve soil quality is potentially substantial because two focus areas specifically target soil:
- Focus area 4C preventing soil erosion and improving soil management
- Focus area 5E fostering carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture
The Rural Development Regulation sets a total of 20 support measures, a number of which may contribute to sustainable soil management (not considering those related to forest management).
- commitments into agri-environment and climate measures (AECMs: M10),
- support for organic farming (M11)
Other rural development measures may indirectly contribute to fostering sustainable soil management, in particular investments in physical assets (M4), knowledge transfer and information actions (M1); advisory services, farm management (M2); Natura 2000 and Water Framework Directive (M12); payments to areas facing natural or other specific constraints (M13); and Cooperation (M16).
The above-described instruments and measures and its link with the CAP soil-related objectives, and the expected impact area summarized in .
#Impact of CAP on climate change and greenhouse gas emission
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (e.g. crop failures and tree dieback from droughts, storms, floods, or pest and disease outbreaks) and is facing increasing climate-related risks. The farming sector needs to adapt to climate change (by, for example, improving soil quality and water management, establishing hedge rows, planting more resilient crop varieties, and adopting more diverse crop rotation practices) to secure future yields European Commission, 2021.
EU climate policy in the 2014-2020 period was also shaped by the EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. It encouraged Member States to adopt comprehensive adaptation strategies, to build up their adaptation capacities and to take adaptation action in key vulnerable sectors, including agriculture (through insurance against natural and man-made disasters, for instance). Furthermore, it helped address the existing knowledge gaps on adaptation in the agricultural sector. On 24 February 2021 the Commission announced a new, even more ambitious EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, which commits the EU and Member States to make continuous progress to boost adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.
According to the main considerations highlighted in a Commission Working document Commission, 2021, which closes an assessment process on the impact of the CAP on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions conducted between 2017 and 2020, the greatest adaptation effects, are guaranteed by the measures that support the diversification of agricultural systems, the implementation of dedicated investments and the adoption of cultivation practices aimed at limiting soil erosion, as well as those related to the risk management.
The following section summarizes the main findings of the aforementioned document on the impact of CAP on climate adaptation.
#Effects of the Horizontal Regulations on adaptation
SMR1 (WFD): is intended to promote the efficient use of irrigation to protect water (in quality and quantity) that could have a great impact to climate change adaptation.
GAEC1 The permanent grassland ratio (PG) can improve adaptation, since permanent grass cover limits soil erosion and improves resilience to floods. It helps to maintain a level of diversity in farming systems, which has been identified as crucial for adaptation.
GAEC6 (maintenance of soil organic matter) is the most likely to benefit adaptation
GAEC8 (Crop rotation) is likely to have positive effects on adaptation by agricultural holdings and on territorial adaptation. Increased crop diversity and crop rotation promoted by the measure improve farms’ resilience to climatic events such as droughts and to economic shocks from price volatility. Crop rotation also helps to improve soil quality and resilience to pests, while diversifying into less water-demanding crops may lower dependence on water resources in traditionally irrigated areas.
GAEC9 (EFA), planting of catch/cover crops, adopted by many farmers to comply with the obligation, favours adaptation by improving soil organic carbon content and maintaining soil moisture, which is good for resilience to droughts, while also limiting the risk of soil erosion. The maintenance of (non-bare) fallow land and landscape elements is also beneficial for resilience to floods and protection from soil erosion.
Farm Advisory System (FAS), climate change has been included in the scope of the FAS from 2014, it is difficult to assess accurately to what extent climate change has been included in advice to farmers due to high complexity in advising on adaptation given: 1) the uncertainty of climate change impacts; 2) the fact that knowledge of adaptation issues is still developing; and 3) the fact that the vulnerability of a given farming system is very dependent on its context and location.
#Effects of the I pillar’s measures on adaptation
Eco-Scheme: This new instrument introduced in the CAP reform is intended to promote agricultural practices to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
#Effects of the II pillar’s measures on adaptation
Training (measure 1) and advisory services (measure 2): climate change adaptation is often mentioned as an objective of these measures, but most supported actions focused primarily on economic or other environmental subjects. Furthermore, the effects of the measures have been hindered by a low level of programming and delays in implementation, which is problematic given the fact that, in several Member States or regions, there is no funding allocated to training activities beyond rural development support.
Cooperation (measure 16) can promote adaptation to climate change thanks to support for the development and diffusion of innovative practices, better planning of resource management and support for diversification of agricultural holdings’ activities.
Measure 19 (LEADER): a review of LEADER projects supported in the previous programming period (2007-2013) across the EU-28 showed that, overall, climate-relevant projects mostly focused on capacity building and energy efficiency, with a limited focus on more explicit adaptation activities Frelih-Larsen et al., 2014 .
Measure 4 (investments in physical assets) has strong potential to support climate change adaptation, since investment in equipment and infrastructure can enable vulnerable farms and forest holdings to adapt to climate change through, for instance:
- improved resource efficiency for agricultural holdings (water efficiency, reduced soil tillage);
- storage facilities to increase water resource availability in agricultural holdings (including rain water collection);
- modernisation of livestock production units (recycling water or improving ventilation of buildings).
Non-productive investments linked to the achievement of agri-environment-climate objectives are also very relevant for climate change adaptation. Support is available, for instance, for the planting of hedges and trees against erosion, or the restoration of wetlands or peatland.
#Risk management measures
Risk is inherent in agriculture
Agricultural activities have a strong link with climate. Weather conditions can either boost or hinder production. According to the European Environment Agency, crop losses in the EU as a result of extreme weather conditions are in danger of increasing European Environment Agency, 2015.
The recent growth in the frequency of extreme natural events and the processes of globalization of international markets increase the risk exposure of farmer. The increased uncertainty can cause the propensity to invest to contract and, in extreme cases, even facilitate the abandonment of the activity.
How risks such as production losses and price volatility are addressed depends on their frequency and impact. In its analysis, the Commission refers to a risk classification developed by the organisation for economic co-operation and development OECD, 2011, setting out where risks should be faced by farmers alone, by means of for example, insurance mechanisms, and where they should be addressed through public intervention.
#Table: 9Different categories of risks faced by farms and related instruments. Source: European Court of Auditors, 2019
Normal risks: events that occur frequently, locally and generally with low damage
Managed at farm level: crop rotation, more resistant/adapted species/varieties, savings, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, production diversification (including off-farm work), prevention investments (e.g. sustainable irrigation systems, hail protection)
Ex-ante public support (EU/MS): subsidised prevention investment, preventing measures and monitoring of diseases, advisory, training and awareness services, EU direct payments
Marketable risks: less frequent events, but more difficult for farmers to manage on their ow
Managed through market tools: private market instruments (insurance, forward and future contracts) or shared with other farmers (mutual funds) or cooperatives or producer organisations
Ex-ante public support (EU/MS): EU/MS subsidised insurance and mutual funds, CAP market measures
Catastrophic risks: Event that occur rarely but are systemic and cause large-scale damage
Managed through public interventions:
Ex-post public support (EU/MS): CAP exceptional measures, other EU funds, ad-hoc aid
The CAP policy instruments most likely addressing risk management in agriculture are :
Measure 5 - disaster risk reduction, which aims to support agricultural holdings’ resilience to climate change. This measure supports preventive actions, e.g. investments in drainage systems in northern regions where more rain is expected in the coming years
M17: Risk management, support under this measure shall cover:
- financial contributions to premiums for crop, animal and plant insurance against economic losses to farmers caused by adverse climatic events, animal or plant diseases, pest infestation, or an environmental incident (Sub-measure17.1);
- financial contributions to mutual funds to pay financial compensations to farmers, for economic losses caused by adverse climatic events or by the outbreak of an animal or plant disease or pest infestation or an environmental incident (Sub-measure17.2);
- an Income Stabilization Tool, in the form of financial contributions to mutual funds, providing compensation to farmers for a severe drop in their income (Sub-measure17.3).
For the purpose of points (b) and (c), 'mutual fund' means a scheme accredited by the Member State in accordance with its national law for affiliated farmers to insure themselves, whereby compensation payments are made to affiliated farmers for economic losses caused by the outbreak of adverse climatic events or an animal or plant disease or pest infestation or an environmental incident, or for a severe drop in their income.
#Land management measures
The agri-environment-climate measure (AECM – measure 10) has diverse potential effects on adaptation. A number of interventions under this measure help to improve the resilience of farms and society more generally by establishing areas of semi-natural vegetation and landscape elements, and by promoting practices that improve soil health and water retention in soils, limit soil erosion, improve resilience to floods, etc. For instance, cover crops, crop rotation, improved management of landscape features, zero tillage and increased use of forage crops are some practices that can be promoted by this measure and which can, in certain circumstances, be beneficial for adaptation. Furthermore, the measure may also improve resilience thanks to the conservation, use and development of varieties more resilient to droughts.
Organic farming (measure 11) has the potential to build resilient food systems, mainly through crop rotation/diversification and improved soil quality. 8.0% of EU agricultural area is farmed organically and close to 65% of this area is covered by EU organic support.
Natura 2000 and Water Framework Directive payments (measure 12) can contribute to territorial adaptation through the protection of biodiversity and wetlands,
Areas facing natural or specific constraints (ANC – measure 13) supports the maintenance of farms in remote areas, thus limiting land abandonment and preventing higher fire risk. Importantly, it maintains a diversity of products, farming systems and habitats (including grassland) that is deemed important for adaptation at a higher level (by regions and EU society).
An attempt to make a link of the contribution of sustainable soil management practices to objectives put forward by EU agro-environmental policies, and the relevance of CAP measures climate adaption, is reported in and respectively.
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; the farming sector needs to adapt to climate change. Soil management is one tool farmers have to respond (adapt) to climate change. Public policies play an important role in farmers’ decisions influencing sustainability of crop production. The potential solutions, that are relevant for the CLIMASOMA project, offered by policies at various governance levels for adapting to climate change, namely through programmes and by introducing adaptation measures at farm level, have been identified in the inventory. Examples of integration of adaptation into the current and proposed CAP framework 2023-2027, are Jacobs et al., 2019:
Indirect support for adaptation in cross-compliance regime and greening provision. The cross-compliance standards with the most direct link to soil are GAEC standards 4 (minimum soil cover), 5 (minimum land management to limit erosion) and 6 (maintenance of soil organic matter). SMR 1 (on the Nitrates Directive) and GAEC standard 7 (landscape features) are also relevant.
The link to agricultural practices that improve soil quality is potentially substantial because two focus areas of rural development programme specifically target soil:
- Focus area 4C preventing soil erosion and improving soil management
- Focus area 5E fostering carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture
The Rural Development Regulation sets a total of 20 support measures, a number of which may contribute to sustainable soil management (not considering those related to forest management), in particular;
The farm advisory system (FAS) is obligatory under the CAP and aims to help farmers better understand and meet the EU rules for environment, public and animal health, animal welfare, and agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment. Consequently, this helps farmers to implement appropriate solutions for their specific situations, including aspects of climate change adaptation, even if it is not mandatory. Whether to include adaptation advice is up to the Member States (M 2).
- Investments in physical asset (M 4)
- commitments into agri-environment and climate measures (AECMs: M10),
- support for organic farming (M11)
#EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL AND CAP 2023-2027
Soils will play an important role in the Green Deal roadmap, linked with the Farm to Fork strategy, Biodiversity strategy (and related EU Soil Strategy for 2030), and climate change (Climate Law).
Under Pillar 1, the newly introduced eco-schemes (agri-environment-climate measures) are required to be implemented, although which measures to offer is up to Member States. Adaptation to climate change and sustainable use of water resources are included as objectives.
- European Environment Agency. (2015). State and Outlook 2015 the European Environment (p. 212).
- Mills, J., Gaskell, P., Ingram, J., Dwyer, J., Reed, M., & Short, C. (2017). Engaging farmers in environmental management through a better understanding of behaviour. Agriculture and Human Values, 34(2), 283–299. 10.1007/s10460-016-9705-4
- Commission of the European Communities. (2006). Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the protection of soil and amending Directive 2004/35/EC (Vol. 0086, p. 30).
- Paz, A. (2021). Synthesis of impacts of sustainable soil management practices. EJP SOIL deliverable 2.1.
- McNeill, A., Muro, M., Tugran, T., & Lukacova, Z. (2021). Report on the selection of good policy alternatives at EU and study site level. Deliverable 7.2, 152.