Eligibility of agroforestry parcels for CAP basic payments

The current reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has set new rules regarding the eligibility of agroforestry parcels for CAP first pillar support. The application of the new Basic Payment Scheme is creating concern for agroforesters, as some of the rules and regulations regarding the presence of trees, shrubs or hedges in agricultural land are becoming more restrictive.

The most relevant changes for agroforestry parcel eligibility are:

(Please note that these rules are not of application in parcels with fruit trees, such as orchards; click here for further details)

  • Maximum tree density in agricultural parcels: the 50 tree/ha recommendation is no longer of application, and a new regulation establishes a compulsory maximum of 100 trees/ha for arable land.

  • For permanent pastures, Member States can use the same tree density limit, or apply an alternative “pro-rata system”, where there is no specific limit for tree density. However, the pro-rata system applies progressive “reduction coefficients” that diminish the eligibility of parcels containing trees or other landscape features.

  • In any of the two systems, some exceptions are applicable:

    • Trees or other features protected by the Cross Compliance do not restrict eligibility in any way: e.g., such trees will not count towards the 100 tree/ha limit or the pro-rata reductions.

    • In silvopastoral systems, trees and shrubs that can be grazed should not restrict eligibility either. Nevertheless, these guidelines produced by the European Commission could limit very much the application of this exception to trees. EURAF has already contested the content of the guidelines in this regard.

Within this European framework, Member States are granted some degree of freedom regarding the application of these rules. Most notably, Member States can:

  • Choose their own tree density limit (always below the 100 tree/ha maximum).

  • Apply the pro-rata system to permanent pastures, instead of the tree density limit.

  • Create exceptions through Cross Compliance rules.

This latter option may be the most interesting one for Member States wanting to make agroforestry parcels fully eligible. The most obvious option is the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition of land that protects landscape features - including trees and hedgerows (GAEC7). Some early examples are: