Eco-schemes, one of the new elements of the common agricultural policy (CAP) 2023-27, support farmers in adopting practices that minimise the negative impact of agriculture on the environment and climate, and help them evolve towards more sustainable farming models.
Eco-schemes support farmers who adopt or maintain farming practices that contribute to EU environmental and climate goals. Through eco-schemes, the EU rewards farmers for preserving natural resources and providing public goods, which are benefits to the public that are not reflected in market prices.
This new mechanism focuses on a common list of action areas defined at EU level and can be used to support practices such as organic farming, agro-ecological practices, precision farming, agro-forestry or carbon farming, as well as animal welfare improvements.
To be supported by eco-schemes, agricultural practices should:
cover activities related to climate, environment, animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance;
be defined based on the needs and priorities identified at national/regional levels in their CAP Strategic Plans;
their level of ambition must go beyond the requirements and obligations set by conditionality;
contribute to reaching the EU Green Deal targets.
Aims of eco-schemes
Around half of the European Union's area is farmed land. Farmers act as managers of the countryside; they shape landscapes and through their work, farmers provide public goods beneficial to all. However, farmers also depend on natural resources, such as soil and water, for their living. Farming activities are affected by climatic events, the state of the environment, biodiversity and water quality.
The CAP plays a crucial role in managing the transition towards a sustainable food system and in supporting European farmers throughout. Eco-schemes aim to contribute significantly to this transition and to the Green Deal targets.
CAP Strategic Plans
When designing their CAP Strategic Plans, EU countries had the flexibility to customise the eco-schemes to specific national environmental and climate needs.
25% of the direct payments are to be allocated to eco-schemes during the 2023-27 period, providing stronger incentives for climate and environment-friendly farming practices.
Eco-schemes are mandatory for EU countries to include in their plans, but voluntary for farmers:
annual or multi-annual commitments: eco-schemes will support annual commitments, according to the needs identified in the CAP plans. However, EU countries can also decide to make commitment multi-annual;
two-year 'learning period': during a two-year 'learning period' (2023 and 2024) an EU country may spend less than 25% in case of a lower take-up by farmers than planned, provided that it makes up the majority of the shortfall by the end of 2027.
Eco-schemes are governed by:
Rules on support for Strategic Plans drawn up by EU countries under the common agricultural policy (Regulation (EU) 2021/2115).