Payments designed to encourage farmers to ‘go green’ have only altered about 5 per cent of farming practices across the EU, despite previous attempts to enhance environment and climate-related performance.
A new report by the European Court of Auditors said the greening direct payment, brought into action with the 2013 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), has instead only added more complexity to the system.
Samo Jereb, member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, said: “Greening remains essentially an income support scheme.
“As currently implemented, it is unlikely to enhance the CAP’s environmental and climate performance significantly.”
Greening was designed to reward farmers for having a positive impact on the environment which would otherwise not be rewarded by the market, and is the only direct payment with a main stated environmental objective.
The auditors carried out interviews with authorities in Greece, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Poland but found the European Commission had not developed a complete intervention logic nor had it set clear ‘sufficiently ambitious’ environmental targets for the scheme to achieve.
It said greening was unlikely to provide significant benefit to the environment and climate because a significant share of the practices subsidised ‘would have been undertaken anyway without the payment’.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said productive, profitable and progressive farming businesses would instead be best placed to deliver more for the environment.
He said: “As we discuss a future domestic agriculture policy for farmers, with environment as one of the three cornerstones, we are calling for universal and wide ranging agri-environment schemes which farmers can choose to undertake to achieve a variety of objectives after leaving the European Union.”