After nearly 60 years, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is currently being reformed to shift responsibility to EU Member States. Key to this reform is the introduction of Eco-schemes in the first pillar, which represents most of the CAP budget, according to a report from Organic Market.

Eco-schemes, completely funded by the EU, could help farmers to introduce new practices and move towards more sustainable models, according to a new report by research institutes FiBL and IEEP, commissioned by IFOAM EU.

“If adequately programmed, Eco-schemes would represent a huge opportunity for farmers to be remunerated for the public goods they provide,” says Jan Plagge, president of IFOAM EU. “This success depends on financial incentives, which go hand in hand with IFOAM EU’s first recommendation to ringfence 70 per cent of the CAP budget for environmental and climate action.”

IFOAM EU’sguide, ‘Using Eco-schemes in the new CAP’,offers assistance to policy makers, Member State officials and all stakeholders in the public or private sector involved in the CAP Strategic Plans.

The guide provides greater understanding of this new policy tool, as well as its strengths and weaknesses, and includes technical support for implementation, such as selecting the payment model and identifying the most suitable measures.

The guide recommends systems-based approaches such as organic farming, conservation agriculture, the protection and maintenance of High-Nature Value (HNV) farmland areas or agroforestry.

It also recommends support in identifying the main barriers to developing effective and efficient measures and provides 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,” says Dr Matthias Stolze, head of the department of socio-economics at FIBL and a co-author of the report. “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.”

Concerning the organic movement, Eco-schemes could encourage 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.