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Agri-Environment Programme for Croatia

Znaor, Darko and Karoglan Todorović, Sonja (2004) Agri-Environment Programme for Croatia. Ecologica, Zagreb.

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In the period 2002-2004, the Netherlands Government's Pin-Matra programme funded an international project aiming to support the introduction of an agri-environment programme (AE) in Croatia. The project resulted in proposals for national and pilot agri-environment programmes. The project addressed key actors working on agri-environmental issues in Croatia, such as government representatives, scientists, farmers, environmental and nature conservation NGOs.
An AE Programme has been operating in the EU since 1992. Today it is the only obligatory measure under the EU Rural Development Regulation. The costs of the AE programmes are part-financed from the EU budget and partly from national budgets. The programme is based on voluntary agreements between farmers and public authorities and currently covers some 25% of agricultural land in the EU. The AE schemes have become an important policy instrument for protecting the environment and maintaining biodiversity on EU agricultural land.
At present Croatia still does not have the appropriate legislative framework needed to facilitate an AE programme. However, Croatia has been working to improve this situation: a Code of Good Agricultural Practices and a National Programme for Agriculture and Rural Areas are soon to be adopted. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management runs a comprehensive agricultural support scheme for farmers. However, 98% of this budget is devoted to production-linked direct payments, while support for rural development is limited to only 0.4% of the total agricultural aid budget. Except for subsidies for organic farming and local breeds, currently there are no other financial provisions for environmentally friendly farming in Croatia. Responsibility for environmental and nature protection in Croatia is divided between three ministries: the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management; the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Spatial Planning and Construction; and the Ministry of Culture (nature protection). There are a number of opportunities for the introduction of an agri-environment programme in Croatia, notably the political climate and Croatia's aspirations to join the EU. However, there are also some obstacles. A particular problem is the high level of the current direct payments. In order to be attractive enough, the AE subsidies would have to be high as well.
The Croatian agricultural sector has two parallel production systems: private family farms and agricultural companies. Private farming constitutes the core of the agricultural sector of Croatia. The recent agricultural census, satellite images and the Ministry of Agriculture's Farm Register indicate that the agricultural area utilised in Croatia is nearly three times smaller than the agricultural area recorded in official statistics. According to these figures, Croatia has only 0.18 ha of arable land per capita, which puts it in the group of countries with a critical land per capita ratio. This is also one of the reasons why Croatia is a great food importer and is self-sufficient in only five agricultural products.
Agriculture is by far the biggest single influence on the Croatian environment and countryside. Croatia practices bipolar agriculture: high-input in regions with intensive arable farming and low-input farming in less favoured areas, most of which are karst regions. The environmental impact of Croatian agriculture is much greater than usually believed. Croatia is a heavy user of mineral fertilisers and pesticides. With an average consumption of 260 kg of nutrients and 4.1 kg of pesticide active ingredients per ha of arable land in the last five years, Croatia significantly exceeds the EU average. Agri-chemicals are applied only on arable land and permanent crops. Most Croatian farms practice very narrow crop rotation, resulting in a number of environmental problems and a decline in biodiversity. Soil erosion is a significant problem, although the biggest one seems to be land abandonment. Shrubs and forest-like vegetation are rapidly invading a vast area of Croatian agricultural land, notably species-rich grassland.
The Croatian AE programme is designed to contribute to environmental and nature protection and the countryside. It will encourage farmers to continue practising environmentally friendly measures or introduce those that are not economically attractive, but essential from the environmental and biodiversity point of view. In this respect, the Programme is an instrument through which Croatian society rewards farmers for the public goods and services they provide (clean water and air, fertile soil, rich biodiversity, appealing landscape, etc.). Through the AE payments, Croatian society would reward farmers for the public goods and services they provide, as the value of this is not recognised by the market.
The Agri-Environment Programme has been designed to respond to two major problems that Croatia faces concerning agriculture, and environmental and nature protection: a rapid decline in (grassland) biodiversity and environmental degradation caused by inappropriate agricultural practices.
The AE Programme consists of six schemes:
1. The Information Transfer Scheme
It should provide training to farmers, administrators and extensionists, as well as inform general public on the Programme importance.
2. Abandoned Land Clearance Scheme
This Scheme should enable farmers to clean and restore agricultural land overgrown by shrubs.
3. Arable Land Scheme
It facilitates reduction of environmental pressure caused by intensive arable farming. The Scheme consists of the following packages: crop rotation, undersowing, anti-erosion and field strips package.
4. Organic Farming Scheme
This should protect soil, water, air and biodiversity by increasing the area under organic management.
5. Grassland Scheme
It encourages farmers to continue with traditional (extensive) grassland management. The Scheme has two packages: for grassland management and species-rich grasslands- and provides payments for mowing and grazing.
6. Biodiversity Scheme
This consists of five packages: the Meadow Orchards Package; Local Breeds and Traditional Varieties Package; Countryside Stewardship Package; Wild Species Protection and Carp Fish Ponds Package. These are targeted to improve habitat, species and landscape biodiversity.
Most of the proposed packages are horizontal measures and can be practised in all regions. However, the Species-Rich Grassland, Wild Species Protection and Carp Fish Ponds Packages are site-specific and can be applied only in selected areas.
Only farms that are bigger than 3 hectares and inscribed in the Farm Register should be eligible for support under the AE Programme. These farms manage 87% of the Croatian UAA. The only exceptions are farms in protected natural areas and organic farms, whose size can be smaller. It is estimated that some 2-10% of arable land and 20% of grassland would take part in the Programme, while the target for organic agriculture is 3% of the UAA. The Biodiversity Scheme is hopped to occupy 23,000 hectares, involve 2.5% of all livestock units and provide 175 km under linear habitats. The envisaged cost for the first three years of the AE Programme's implementation is 23 million EUR per year on average, representing some 7% of the current budget for the state's support for agriculture. Once Croatia joins the EU, the AE Programme could be 85% financed by the EU and 15% by the national agricultural budget.
Reaching the targets set out by this Programme would enhance the rural landscape, protect the environment, improve biodiversity and maintain Croatia's rich natural heritage. Therefore, this Programme should be given a prominent place when designing Croatia’s future agricultural policy.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Agri-environment programme; organic farming; Croatia; Abandoned Land Clearance Scheme; crop rotation; undersowing, anti-erosion; field strips; grassland; biodiversity
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Farming Systems
Crop husbandry
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Food systems > Policy environments and social economy
Environmental aspects > Landscape and recreation
Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Croatia
Deposited By: Znaor, Dr Darko
ID Code:26407
Deposited On:03 Jul 2014 08:37
Last Modified:03 Jul 2014 08:37
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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