The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform agreement of June 2013 carries forward the principle that there is a link through the cross-compliance (CC) system between receipt of CAP support by farmers and respect of a set of basic rules related to the main public expectations on environment, public and animal health, as well as, animal welfare.

Introduced in 2003, cross-compliance covers direct payments, certain rural development and wine sector payments.

The CAP has regularly been adapted to respond to new challenges. The 2013 reform was being designed to achieve continued food security and safety in Europe, whilst also ensuring a sustainable use of land and maintaining natural resources, preventing climate change and addressing territorial challenges. In this framework, changes have also been introduced for cross-compliance by clarifying objectives, regrouping the legal base, simplification of cross-compliance scope and the enlargement of FAS (Farm Advisory System).

How does cross-compliance work?

In order to receive payments, farmers shall respect a set of basic rules. Farmers not respecting EU law on environmental, public and animal health, animal welfare or land management will see the EU support they receive reduced.

These reductions are proportional to the extent, permanence, severity and repetition of the infringement specified.

What are the elements of cross-compliance?

Cross-compliance covers two elements:

  • Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs): These requirements refer to 13 legislative standards in the field of the environment, food safety, animal and plant health and animal welfare.
  • Good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAECs): The obligation of keeping land in good agricultural and environmental condition refers to a range of standards related to soil protection, maintenance of soil organic matter and structure, avoiding the deterioration of habitats, and water management.

What are the legal bases for the cross-compliance?

Council Regulation 1306/2013
Commission Implementing Regulation 809/2014
Commission Delegated Regulation 640/2014

Which EU rules are concerned by the cross-compliance system?

Cross-compliance includes directives and regulations – “statutory management requirements” – that are applied under the sectorial legislation and apply therefore also to farmers not receiving the CAP support covered by cross-compliance.

  • Public, animal and plant health: General Food Law, Hormones ban Directive, Regulations on identification and registration of pigs, bovine, ovine and caprine animals, Regulation on prevention, control and eradication of TSE, Regulation on plant protection products;
  • animal welfare: Directives on the protection of calves, pigs and animals kept for farming purposes;
  • environmental protection: Nitrates Directive, NATURA 2000 Directives (wild birds and habitats).

To this has been added – specifically for farmers receiving CAP payments – a set of standards on good agricultural and environmental condition of land, designed to:

  • prevent soil erosion: Minimum soil cover, Minimum land management;
  • maintain soil organic matter and soil structure: Maintenance of soil organic matter level;
  • biodiversity and ensure a minimum level of maintenance: Retention of landscape features including ban on cutting hedges and trees during the bird breeding and rearing season;
  • protect and manage water: Establishment of buffer strips along water courses, authorisation on water for irrigation and protection of ground water against pollution.

Which payments might be reduced under the cross-compliance system?

  • Direct payments (decoupled or coupled);
  • most rural development payments; such as Area Based Payments which include agri-environmental measures, Areas with natural constrains, NATURA 2000 measures, Afforestation measures, Forest environmental payments, Agroforestry, Organic farming;
  • 2 payments in the wine sector (“Restructuring and conversion of vineyards” and “Green harvesting”).

Why is cross-compliance important?

The rules seek fostering measures important for society – for instance nitrate limits in fertilisation, protecting NATURA 2000 areas, food safety, animal welfare and traceability of food from animals, biodiversity and climate change. Cross-compliance, through making a link between these rules and the CAP payments, makes the CAP more compatible with the expectations of citizens.

Cross-compliance also helps make European farming more sustainable, in particular, through better awareness of CAP beneficiaries to the respect of the statutory rules. This also contributes to make the CAP more beneficial for society at large.