EU Policy Briefings #19, #20, #21, #22, #23
Briefing #19 (Agroforestry and the EU ABER Regulation) Changes in the Agricultural Block Exemption Rules (ABER) for State Aid to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture were published on 14.12.22 as Commission Regulation 2022/2472. This replaces Regulation 702/2014. EURAF particularly welcomes:
a) the extension of funding to the restoration of existing agroforestry areas, rather than simply new planting, b) the increase in payments for establishment and restoration from 80% to 100% of eligible costs, c) the increase in the eligibility period for annual premiums from 5 years to 12 years. These changes could put agroforestation schemes on a par with afforestation in countries like Ireland, Netherlands and Finland, which finance forestry using national or European funds which are outside of the CAP. There is concern, however, that these States are not required to provide any reporting at a European level on their forestry and agroforestry activities.
Briefing #20 (Agroforestry & the Certification Framework for Carbon Removals) EURAF welcomes the draft CFCR, and its initial proposals for robust certification of carbon removals including a) quality criteria, b) verification and certification, c) functioning of certification schemes. However we feel that rigorous certification is only needed for a subset of specialised carbon farming schemes. There is much more to be done, in the near term, to meet the aspirational target of the December 2021 “Sustainable Carbon Cycles Communication” that “by 2028 every land manager should have access to verified emission and removal data”. EURAF believes that high quality emissions estimates by Member States (IPCC Tier 3) should be combined with detailed wall-to-wall representation of land use (IPCC Approach 3), and results should be available open source to farmers and foresters. High-resolution databases of net emissions across the forestry and agricultural sectors will facilitate a target of net zero emissions in the integrated land sector by 2035. These improvements by MS should proceed in parallel with amendment and ratification of the FCCR.
Briefing #21 (Landscape Features in the new CAP) EURAF and ELO have collated the selection of Landscape Features made by Member States in their Strategic Plans for 2023-2027. All MS except FI and SE implement at least one of the options for hedges, trees in groups, trees in line, isolated trees and forest margins, but the rules for tree crown size and block size differ considerably, and are often not clearly specified. Agroforestry was one of the Ecological Focus Area options in the previous CAP, although little used by MS. If it is to continue to make a significant contribution to the rural economy and to GHG sequestration before 2030 then greater clarity is needed for farmers that existing managed and pruned lines of trees in silvoarable or pastoral systems will not detract from basic payments (BISS) in the new CAP, and that new agroforestry plantations, made with PIllar I or Pillar II assistance will qualify for continuing BISS payments. EURAF stresses that national IACS/LPIS databases are most appropriate for estimation of the area of Landscape Features (Figure 1), and looks for clarity from MS on the size and density of small tree-blocks which are permitted on farms, without changing their designation from “agricultural” to “forest” land.
Briefing #22 (Agroforestry definitions in the new CAP) EURAF has collated the definitions of agroforestry included by all Member States in their CAP Strategic Plans. Some are detailed and include minimum and maximum numbers of trees per hectare, but usually without a definition of “tree”. However, few of the definitions can lead to remotely-sensed identification of those parcels which are “agroforestry” and those which have too few trees to be considered as agroforestry. Nevertheless, Member States are progressively adding more detail to their identification of Landscape Features (including individual trees, hedges and trees in groups and lines) and Non Productive Areas (GAEC-8) in their CAP Land Parcel Identification Systems. This detail is also needed to measure compliance with the 10% target in the Biodiversity Strategy and Nature Restoration Law (see Briefings #18 and #21). It should be possible for Member States to propose a % threshold tree-crown cover (actual or potential) which would be used to distinguish agroforestry parcels in the CAP and also in LULUCF accounting of GHG emissions. Several Member States have taken advantage of the flexibility offered in the Strategic Plan Regulation to define “permanent grassland” to include areas which are predominantly covered by shrubs which can be grazed or cut for fodder. These include areas which could also be considered as agroforestry.
Briefing #23 (Agroforestry Needs in EU Research Framework Programmes 2025-2027). This document is produced by the EURAF Scientific Committee as a short contribution to the EU consultation on the “past, present and future of European Research and Innovation Programmes 2014-2027 ”.
Building on past EU funded projects and scientific publications, a series of activities were organised ahead of drafting this document:
- collecting feedback from experts affiliated to EURAF (through surveys);
- reviewing the scientific literature, organised in line with recognised academic criteria;
- identifying the knowledge gaps highlighted by this literature review;
- prioritising topics for future research and innovation projects – which would maximise the contribution of AF to meet the EU’s agricultural and environmental objectives (i.e. EU Green Deal).
EURAF’s Scientific Committee identified four priorities which may assist the future strategic orientations of Horizon Europe (2025-2027). Topics wre defined in line with the key objectives of the programme (i.e. maximising scientific, technological, economic and societal impacts), as well with the Food 2030 initiative and the FAO Science and Innovation Strategy. The priorities are:
2.1. Empowering the farming community to make a bolder contribution towards EU’s environmental and climate targets;
2.2. Further develop a toolbox to strengthen the links between researchers, AF practitioners and communities;
2.3. Improving EU’s food, fibre and energy self-sufficiency;
2.4. Accelerating the transition from ‘silo thinking’ to a multidimensional view of food production, while bridging the gap between science and practice.