Extensive graziers in Spain: the latest victims of farmland reclassification

A recent news article posted by the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFCNP) provides an update on the on-going battle for traditional graziers against Member State reclassification of farmland.

Although landscape features, such as trees and hedges, are part of traditional EU farming systems, they are largely in decline. Paradoxically, one of the pressures identified as leading to this decline is EU policy which discourages farmers from managing such features. The current CAP rules stipulate that in order to be eligible for subsidies, a pasture should not have more than 50 trees per hectare and that a hedgerow should not be more than 2 metres wide. In several Member States this has often resulted in the abandonment of wood pastures which have subsequently become overgrown with scrub and hedges being cut down, resulting in both costs to the farmers and loss of habitat. A report by the EFNCP on permanent pastures and meadows under the CAP illustrates with six case studies the impact that this has had over recent years.

The latest update reported by the EFCNP are cases of reclassification by Spanish authorities following a visit from European Commission auditors who were reportedly ‘shocked at the amount of “nature” on Spanish grazing land’. The most recent example is in the north of Spain, in León, where 40,000 hectares have been reclassified as ineligible for CAP support. The decision has been met with protest by the graziers and local authorities who stress the environmental importance of grazing these pastures for both landscape conservation and fire prevention.

The EFCNP maintains that all pastures in active grazing should be eligible for CAP support and refers to the requirements as ‘ill-conceived bureaucracy’ and that this issue must be resolved in the current negotiations on the CAP rules post 2014.

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25 Apr 2013