Starting in 2023. The National Strategic Plan provides for a new form of direct payments to farmers who are willing to voluntarily implement climate, biodiversity and sustainability measures. The so-called. ecoschemes promise financial rewards for initiatives that go beyond standard standards and requirements.
What are ecoschemes?
A core component of the Common Agricultural Policy is direct payments related to the implementation of management requirements and standards for maintaining land in good agricultural condition. For the 2023-2027 period, the funding also includes additional initiatives that translate into real benefits for the environment, climate and animal welfare. Ecoschemes are implemented voluntarily, over a period of one year, and entitle them to receive direct payments calculated on the basis of rates for specific practices.
The call for applications for 2023 ended on June 30. The Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture reports that farmers submitted a total of 1.24 million applications, of which 37 percent. included the implementation of a minimum of one scheme. As of November 6, applicants had been paid PLN 4.76 billion in advance direct and area payments for ecoschemicals.
“Carbon farming” and “Animal welfare”. – most popular ecoschemes
In the first call, most applicants chose the Carbon Agriculture and Nutrient Management scheme. It has eight practices that can be implemented, including extensive use of TUZ with stocking rates, winter intercropping or intercropping, fertilizer plans, diversified cropping structure, mixing manure with soil, using liquid manure other than splash, simplified cropping systems, and mixing straw with soil.
How is the financial benefit to the farmer determined? Depending on the size of the farm, the minimum number of points needed to benefit from the ecoscheme is calculated, and then practices are selected to reach the required pool. One point is valued at 100 zlotys. A farm of 100 hectares must plan to implement such a combination of the above-mentioned practices that together they yield a minimum of 125 points, for which it can expect a payment of 12,500. PLN per year.
Also in the case of the “Animal Welfare” ecoscheme, the farmer himself chooses from the catalog of practices to implement in order to achieve the required number of points. The necessity here is to provide increased living space for the animals. As calculated by the Wielkopolska Chamber of Agriculture (WIR), a farmer who owns 30 sows and will want to implement this practice without enlarging the building, should get rid of six sows to receive an annual payment of 9360 PLN (24 x 390 PLN) in return. If you subtract the losses incurred in reducing the herd, the financial benefit will amount to PLN 4176, and additional savings will result from reduced spending on antibiotics and medicines.
Under the “Animal Welfare” ecoscheme, in addition to increasing the livestock area (by 20 or 50 percent), practices related to bedding, providing paddocks or grazing and later weaning of youngsters can also be implemented. For each species, precise standards have been set for the area per head of property and the corresponding payments. Thus, for example, an increase by half of the living area for dairy cows entitles to aid of PLN 1,000 per cow.
Add that starting in 2024. All farmers interested in implementing this scheme will be required to attend a training course on the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.
Organic practices in the Common Agricultural Policy
Ecoschemes are intended to support the EU’s stated priorities. The main goal is to change the management of areas in such a way as to reduce the pressure that agriculture exerts on the environment today. This calls for a reduction in the use of pesticides and herbicides and less exploitative use of agricultural areas.
The scheme “Areas with honey-growing plants” requires sowing a mixture of a minimum of two plants from the attached list while prohibiting the use of pesticides and fertilizers and grazing. A payment of PLN 1198 per hectare was provided for implementation. Additional agricultural benefits include strengthening populations of insects that pollinate plant crops. According to WIR, if one takes into account the costs incurred and the loss of profits, this is unfortunately an unprofitable scenario and recommended at most for farms with very poor quality soils.
However, the other ecoschemes seem quite financially attractive and beneficial in the long run. “Biological crop protection” is the practice of performing a minimum of one crop protection treatment with one of the indicated microbiological preparations. It applies to areas of permanent crops, agricultural land, but also wooded areas in the agro-forestry system. The farmer undertakes to purchase and use a biological protection product, and if that fails, he can turn to chemical fertilizers. The payment in this variant is PLN 400 per hectare.
Responsible agriculture, or how to combine ecoschemes
The advantage of implementing ecoschemes is that they can be combined on a single plot. And so “Biological Crop Farming” can be combined with “Carbon Agriculture.” If you choose the practice of intercropping, the rate per hectare increases to PLN 500.
The scheme “Conducting crop production in the system of Integrated Plant Production” providing for a payment of PLN 1,300 per hectare can also be combined with “Carbon farming”. It requires supervision by a certification body and preservation of all permanent grassland on the farm. Although the farmer has to bear the cost of training and certification, but they will pay off in the future with better marketing potential for the products.
With the above ecoscheme can be combined “Water retention on TUZ” with a basic rate of PLN 281 per hectare. This proposal is mainly aimed at farmers with flooded or waterlogged grasslands, where water saturation between May 1 and September 30 is at least 80 percent. For at least 12 consecutive days. “Retention” can also be implemented together with selected practices of “Carbon Agriculture,” “Honey Plant Areas” and “Integrated Plant Production.”
Ecoschemes for 2024.
Since every farm is different and the options for financial assistance are comprehensive, the Center for Agricultural Advocacy (CDR) has prepared a series of tools to help estimate the potential benefits available under the CAP Strategic Plan. Among them you can also find calculators covering the use of ecoschemes by flat-rate farmers. The analysis of various options will allow to plan the activity and the application to ARMA for the next year.
It is already clear that the requirements for individual ecoschemes will change for the next call in 2024. On September 19 this year. An amendment to the regulation on the conditions for granting and disbursing funds under the CAP PS has been published. The main changes relate to “Carbon Agriculture,” and according to experts, are a major convenience for farmers.