The EU commission puts forward four flagship categories of eco-schemes: agroforestry, agro-ecology, precision farming and carbon farming. These eco-schemes fit in the farm to fork strategy and they aim at giving examples of what the Commission expects from the member States when they will design their national eco-schemes.
There is an initial indicative list although the final design of eco-schemes will not be known until the trilogies negotiations are completed. Member States should be able to implement ‘entry-level’ schemes in direct payments that could be a condition for participation in agri-environment-climate schemes in the rural development domain. IACS systems were historically dealing only with Pillar 1 payments however, with this new schemes, it will become of utmost importance to integrate both direct and RD payments inside the same IT system to enable easy automated cross-checks and avoid double payments.
As of today, only some Member States are managing all payment schemes inside a single integrated IT system, whereas most of them are still running decoupled systems which integrate with manual transfer of information. In some MS, this is due to the presence of different agencies. Interestingly, the new eco-schemes will extend the concept of ‘contracts’ to direct payments, something that NIVA’s UC5b has seen coming since the beginning of the project. Comparison of possible pillar 1 eco-schemes and pillar 2 AECM will be provided in the next bulletin.
For sure, eco-schemes for the environment and climate are the main innovation in the green architecture of the CAP. As mandatory instruments, they would oblige Member States (MS) to allocate a proportion of their Pillar 1 payments to schemes that would directly benefit the environment and climate.
Eco-schemes should support only genuine farmers who make commitments to observe, on eligible hectares, agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment. MS can design eco-schemes to require a one-year obligation by farmers either declared as commitment within the ‘old’ May aid application or, even better, inside the NIVA Claimless System contracts. The Commission has also confirmed in its Q&As that MS have the possibility to design multi-annual schemes which could be formalised by means of a multi-annual contract exactly as for AECMs, again a perfect match to the Claimless System. It is not yet clear if support may be granted to groups of farmers. However, nothing prevents Member States from granting support to a group of natural or legal persons” who fall under the definition of “farmer”.