The EU’s ecological focus areas – How experts explain farmers’ choices in Germany | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
June 2017
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Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) have recently been introduced as key element in the greening of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. In 2015, farmers across the EU have implemented EFAs for the first time. Data for German federal states indicate a strong variance in EFA decisions with an overall dominance of catch crops, nitrogen fixing crops and fallow land – two of which bear limited benefits for biodiversity conservation. This article explores how experts explain EFA choices. We conducted 35 qualitative, semi-structured interviews with representatives from the Ministry for Agriculture, farm advisory services, and farmers’ associations in each federal state. Applying content analysis we clustered the factors mentioned as determinants for farmers’ EFA choices into the categories administrative considerations, economic considerations, local factors, ecosystem considerations and policy incentives. According to the interviewed experts, farmers have primarily registered measures that already existed on their farms. Administrative considerations dominate the identified determinants for farmers’ EFA decisions, and together with economic considerations appear to function as a negative incentive for EFA options that are beneficial for biodiversity, such as landscape elements and buffer strips. We conclude that conditions for EFA implementation were found to not effectively incentivise a higher share of biodiversity supporting characteristics in German agricultural landscapes. Based on a detailed discussion we extract recommendations on how to improve EFA implementation.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Zinngrebe, Yves
Pe’er, Guy
Schueler, Stefan
Schmitt, Jonas
Schmidt, Jenny
Lakner, Sebastian


Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.

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