Knowledge Platform


Pillar 1 measures are composed of market and direct payments. Direct payments represent 75% of the support of the CAP to EU farming. They have contributed to maintain farming in several of the studied regions by supporting farm income, and therefore have allowed the conservation of the associated farmed landscapes. But there is also evidence that, in some areas, they have encouraged landscape homogenization, either through the intensification of production (Lowland Ferrara reclaimed landscape in Italy, Chlapowski protected area in Poland) or through the closure of landscapes due to the extensification of livestock farming with too low stocking rate to control vegetation growth (Corsican mountains in France).

Evidence from the literature

Since the 1992 reform, Pillar I direct payments are composed of decoupled and coupled payments. The 2003 reform has switched from coupled to decoupled support (in 2008 in EU-25, 80% of direct payments were decoupled (Farm Accountancy Data Network)). Given that decoupled payments aim at minimizing the interactions between CAP support and farmers' production decisions, the influence of decoupled direct payments on agricultural landscapes is expected to be low. The impact of direct payments on agricultural landscapes has received very little attention. However, by contributing to the stabilization of farm income, it can be argues that decoupled direct payments help to maintain farming and therefore contribute to the preservation of farmed landscapes.

The second channel through which direct payments design can contribute to the management of agricultural landscapes is through the definition of the minimum agricultural and environmental standards for agricultural land to be eligible to payments (statutory management requirements (SMR) and good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC) standards). On the one hand, GAEC standards contribute to the conservation of landscape features (like field margins, hedges, ponds, ditches and trees) or to limit the negative visual aspect of plots due to soil erosion, the overgrowth of vegetation and the closure of landscapes (for example obligation of minimum soil cover and minimum land management). But on the other hand, there is a risk of homogenization of land use in marginal areas resulting from land being taken out of production because farmers can receive direct payments without producing if they respect these standards.

In the CAP post 2014 the most prominent change affecting landscape management is the introduction of the greening component in Pillar 1: crop diversification, ecological focus areas and maintenance of permanent pastures. These three obligatory greening measures are expected to modify crop pattern allocation and landscape features for those farms not already complying with the conditions, therefore influencing landscape provision.

Structural change has led to intensification, concentration and specification of production in some areas and marginalization and abandonment in others. These structural changes in farming are certainly impacted by the agricultural policy, especially the first pillar, but they are also largely driven by non-CAP policy factors like technological development and other drivers of farming practices and landscape management, such as favourable or unfavourable agro-climatic conditions, market prices, urban pressure or labour allocation decisions between on- and off-farm. Where farming is not profitable or land highly productive, pillar I subsidies may not be a sufficient instrument to counteract land abandonment or pressures on land.

Empirical Case Study Evidence

  • Strength: Direct payments contribute to the maintenance of landscape through income support and cross compliance (minimum environmental standards) (Examples IT, AT, PL, ES).
  • Weakness: Pillar I payments have in some areas landscape damaging effects due to the homogenization and intensification of land use (Examples DE, FR).

Conclusions & Recommendations

In order to support the maintenance of agricultural landscapes, good agricultural and environmental conditions need to be adapted to the local conditions. Defining GAEC at the regional scale is not always sufficient to capture the diversity of agricultural landscapes at the regional level and to make sure.

In the design and ex-ante evaluation of the CAP, we recommend to take into account the regional framework conditions, such as land pressure, the socio-economic situation of the rural communities and urban neighbourhood, landscape diversity in the area (including non-agricultural landscapes) and the other local policies (i.e. environmental or urban planning). These conditions play a fundamental role, by limiting the potential impact of the CAP on agricultural landscapes, but also providing opportunities for the CAP public support to have a multiplier effect.