Report Outlines CAP Reform Options for More Sustainable Livestock Production

A new report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy seeks to establish the influence of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on livestock and feed production and their associated environmental impacts. Although, the study focuses primarily on production in the UK, with reference to the dairy, sheep, beef, pigs and poultry sectors, many of the issues raised will be applicable throughout the EU and beyond.

The report concludes that the environmental and health arguments for producing and consuming fewer livestock products are overwhelming...

The study explores the interactions of different types of livestock production, their consumption of feed, particularly where this involves imports of feed such as soya, and the overall environmental impacts of such production systems. It then considers possible policy options for promoting more sustainable forms of livestock production in the UK, but also, in principle, elsewhere in order to reduce the environmental impacts of the livestock sector both locally and globally.

The report was commissioned by Friends of the Earth to provide evidence for a new campaign on the environmental and social impacts of the livestock sector [a]. An overarching theme of the study is to explore the relationship between livestock and their consumption of unsustainably produced feed, principally soya imports from South America, where recent expansion of production has been implicated in significant deforestation.

Overview of Policy Options for Increasing the Sustainability of Livestock Production

The report identifies four key objectives to be addressed:

  • To reduce overall livestock production in the UK and EU;
  • To reduce dependency on imported soya and find alternative sources of protein for animal feed;
  • To reduce the intensity of livestock production and promote more sustainable, grass-fed livestock production systems; and,
  • To reduce consumption of livestock products overall, particularly consumption from intensive livestock systems, whilst promoting the consumption of products from more sustainable farming systems.

Policy options for reducing the environmental impacts of UK livestock production, taking into account the objectives outlined above, are considered in relation to the following key areas:

  • Trade policy and the WTO
  • Options relating to the current CAP
  • Longer term CAP reform options
  • Options to reduce consumption of livestock products and influence consumer behaviour
  • Research and development to promote sustainable livestock and feed production

Further Reform of the CAP in Combination With Other Measures Needed who practice more sustainable forms of production do not receive preferential treatment in terms of the [direct] payments received...

The report concludes that the environmental and health arguments for producing and consuming fewer livestock products are overwhelming, but achieving lower, more sustainable, levels of production and consumption is a significant challenge. Public policy clearly has a role to play in incentivising more sustainable forms of livestock production through the CAP and reducing the incentives for intensive and environmentally damaging forms of production.

The report notes that there are some options for reforming Pillar 1 of the CAP as it currently stands (notably a switch towards flat rate area payments to shift support from the areas, which have historically been farmed most intensively, towards more extensive producers, and potential use of Article 68). However, the authors suggest that the main potential for promoting sustainable livestock systems requires a more fundamental reform of the CAP to increase funding of Pillar 2 type measures (principally agri-environment schemes but also some Axis 1 measures) and to switch the focus of support towards the provision of public goods. Currently, Pillar 1 payments account for around €42 billion in annual expenditure across the EU-27, yet farmers who practice more sustainable forms of production do not receive preferential treatment in terms of the payments received (unlike agri-environment schemes and with the possible exception of measures financed through Article 68).

In addition, given the movement towards increased market orientation within the CAP, a lot will depend on whether consumers continue to demand and buy ‘cheap’ livestock products, which fail to internalise significant negative externalities and thus do not reflect the true costs of production. Labelling and consumer information linked to the EU's policy on food quality, in combination with certain Pillar 2 type measures, could also be used to better effect to influence consumer purchasing behaviour to favour both more sustainable livestock products and more sustainable levels of consumption.

Finally, the report calls for efforts within the EU to be matched globally if real progress is to be made in reducing the global environmental and social impacts of livestock. Ultimately, in addition to reform of the CAP and other polices within the EU, this will require multi-lateral agreements on trade, climate change, the conservation of biodiversity, poverty alleviation and others, to be effective.

The document entitled 'Policy Options for More Sustainable Livestock and Feed Production' can be downloaded here.

For information on Friends of the Earth's campaign please refer to the following publications: What's Feeding Our Food? and Feeding the Beast.

[a] It should be noted that the report by IEEP does not necessarily represent Friends of the Earth policy.

1 comment posted

  • Ross Cherrington Westcountry Rivers Trust June 12th, 2009

    Increasing support through easier to enter and targeted higher stewardship schemes with smaller farmers within traditional LFA areas would reduce stocking in intensive regions and perform a social role as well, by keeping populations in difficult rural areas. The removal of LFA payments from Disadvantaged areas was a retrograde step. Large intensive farms with arable acreages should have restricted access to HLS.


10 Jun 2009




The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.