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Agri-environment-climate measures (AECM) and eco-schemes within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the Flanders region

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Lysander Fockaert
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(@lysanderf)
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The agricultural sector is a major player in environment- and climate-related issues, due to its substantial dependency on land and natural resources. There are many externalities from food production, such as greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions, drift of nutrients, pollutants and harmful substances to surrounding ecosystems, and the altering of habitats and dispersal routes of species. All of these problems are interconnected and should be dealt with systematically. According to the European Commission, “agri-environment measures are a key element for the integration of environmental concerns into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They are designed to encourage farmers to protect and enhance the environment on their farmland by paying them for the provision of environmental services”.
( https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/envir/measures_en ).

Agri-environment-climate measures (AECMs) and eco-schemes are voluntary measures for farmers, funded by the CAP. AECMs cover long-term environmental commitments related to the preservation of the rural environment and biodiversity and maintaining the countryside. In the most recent CAP reform, the AECMs have been updated and complementary eco-schemes (one year contracts) have been added to the policy. Eco-schemes are new instruments that preserve a substantial part of the CAP’s direct income support budget for farmers who implement environmentally beneficial practices. Whereas the AECMs are long-term contracts (mostly five years), the eco-schemes are commitments for one year.

The social impact of these measures has been analysed in the Assessment of Social Impact: “farmers can voluntarily implement these measures to enhance the environmental quality of the rural landscape or to reduce the negative impact of food production on the natural ecosystem. Examples are sowing and maintaining flower strips or planting and maintenance of hedgerows. Farmers who implement such measures can sign in to an agreement with the government. These contracts specify the conditions for the implementation and the subsidies that the participating farmer can receive in compensation for their efforts and income foregone. VLM is also responsible for contracting, advising and monitoring farmers who implement the agri-environmental measures”.
[Check the Library to download and read the full document]

The purpose of the case study is to assess farmers' evaluations of the AECMs in the past and to determine farmers' willingness to continue or adopt new AECMs and eco-schemes, using a survey on following questions:

  • What are farmers’ preferences for the different components of AECMs/eco-schemes?
  • ​Are farmers likely to depart from AECMs towards eco-schemes?​
  • What are the barriers that farmers face in the implementation (of AECMs and the transition to) eco-schemes?

In the analysis, we had to take into account the detailedness and limited generalizability of AECMs. The project applies methodologies that consider policies as general and homogeneous, whereas the AECMs cover a range of very distinct practices. Implementation of these individual practices ultimately depends on the local conditions and ecological goals of a region and the eligibility of the interested farmers for specific measures. The farmer community to which these measures are targeted is also relatively large and diverse in terms of motivations, capital and personal characteristics. The impact of AECMs (both in terms of environmental impact and socio-economic impact) thus depends severely on the specific AECMs that are applied and on the local situation in which they are implemented. AECMs can be measures that are applied on extensive margins, as linear and vertically ascending woody elements, or on entire fields, and can be aimed at buffering or connecting vulnerable natural ecosystems or the protection of specific umbrella species (species whose conservation grants protection to other species in the same habitat).

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Lysander Fockaert
Posts: 2
Topic starter
(@lysanderf)
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Joined: 9 months ago

We, as a policy administration instution, would like to further reflect on this topic and more specifically on whether and how socio-economic evaluation methods can take the detailedness and heterogeneity of these policy measures into account.

  1. What methods and models would be most suited for the evaluation of AECMs at the member state level?
  2. What are the limitations of commonly applied methods and models with regards to the detailedness and heterogeneity of such policy measures?
  3. How could we overcome these limitations within those methods and models or are there any more promising alternatives?
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