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Permanent Pastures and Meadows — adapting CAP instruments to take account of public goods

POLICY SEMINAR, Brussels, Thursday 19th May 2011

Date: Thursday 19th May 2011
Time: 0915h - 1600h
Venue: Maelbeek Room, Residence Palace, International Press Centre, Rue de la Loi 155, 1040 Brussels
Themes: Single Payment eligibility rules, GAEC, greening Pillar 1, all as applied to permanent pastures. Maintenance of public goods linked to active farming.
Organised by: EFNCP, SSNC and Grasslands Trust, with funding from DG Environment and the SSNC


The permanent pastures1 of Europe are vital to our agriculture and to our culture. A large proportion of our permanent pastures are in a broadly “semi-natural” condition, meaning that they have not been recently reseeded or heavily fertilised. These semi-natural permanent pastures are of exceptional biodiversity importance compared with other farmland. They are also an extremely important carbon store. This seminar forms part of a wider programme of work on this important topic.

However, semi-natural permanent pastures continue to decline in extent and environmental quality. The reasons behind this decline are well known: intensification on land with greater production potential, abandonment in situations of limited social and economic viability.

Pillar 1 of the CAP includes several mechanisms with a major influence on the present and future use of permanent pastures, specifically direct payments and cross-compliance rules. These mechanisms are intended to provide a basic level of support to maintain farming activity across the EU, to ensure that land receiving payments is under a minimum level of maintenance, and to monitor and prevent significant declines in permanent pastures.

In the case of permanent pastures under low-intensity use and of most public-goods value, it seems that these mechanisms are not proving effective and the basic EU objectives are not being met.

The mechanisms are also having some unintended perverse effects, including an increased threat of abandonment of the most marginal permanent pastures. In some cases, rules are leading to wholesale clearance of vegetation of high public goods value, including trees, scrub and semi-natural landscape features such as hedges, in order to satisfy eligibility rules for CAP support.

The discussion on greening of Pillar 1 presents an opportunity to discuss practical issues around current policy mechanisms, and how to make them better adapted to the support and protection of permanent pastures and other farmland features of high public goods value.

This seminar aimed to address the following specific issues with a strong emphasis on finding effective solutions:

  • CAP definition of “permanent pasture” (grassland that has not been in an agricultural rotation for 5 years). Is this definition appropriate? Does it reflect the reality of permanent pastures types in active farming use across the EU? Should a revised definition be introduced under CAP reform? How should it look?
  • CAP direct payments eligibility criteria. How are the rules and EC guidance applied to permanent pasture, including the “50 trees rule”? Examples from several countries. Issues arising. Should revised rules and guidance be introduced under CAP reform? How should they look?
  • Cross-compliance rules on decline of permanent pastures. Are they working? What are the main issues? How could this mechanism be made to work better?
  • Cross-compliance rules on minimum maintenance and avoiding deterioration of habitats, and on encroachment of unwanted vegetation. Examples from several countries and issues arising. Which is the best approach? How should minimum maintenance be defined, and at what administrative level?
  • Greening options for Pillar 1 and the possibility of a premium or top-up for permanent pastures. How could/should this work?

EFNCP reports

EFNCP has produced two reports to clarify the issues: the first is an analysis of how the CAP is applied to permanent pastures in 6 countries, the second is a detailed analysis of the key CAP instruments and concrete EFNCP proposals for reform of these instruments to make them better adapted to the needs of semi-natural pastures and the farmers that maintain them.

EFNCP position paper


Morning – chair Gun Rudquist Swedish Society for Nature Conservation

  • 0915 – Welcome and aims for the day

Session 1: Introduction to issues and objectives

Session 2: Country examples – 15 minutes each followed in each case by questions and brief discussion of issues raised

Afternoon – chair Miles King, Grasslands Trust

Session 3: Discussion of possible solutions

Following discussions initiated in each case by brief introduction of EFNCP proposals for how to improve existing rules and their implementation

Proposals for discussion. Guy Beaufoy, EFNCP

  • 1420 – Definition of permanent pastures, CAP eligibility criteria and guidelines (50 trees rule, scrub, landscape elements)
  • 1440 – GAEC rules on minimum maintenance, avoiding habitat deterioration, encroachment of unwanted vegetation
  • 1500 – GAEC rules to prevent overall decline of permanent pastures
  • 1520 – Greening options and proposal for a Permanent Pasture Premium under Pillar 1
  • 1550 – Conclusions
  • 1600 – Close

1The term “permanent pastures” is used here to include permanent meadows, as is the case under CAP rules.

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Date: 2024/04/20
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