21/04/2009 - The European
Commission adopted today a Communication
which sets down a proposed group of 8 criteria for a new
classification of agricultural areas suffering from natural
handicaps. The Communication is asking Member States to
undertake testing of these criteria to better assess the
More on the Communication
Rural Development policy 2007-2013
Aid to farmers in Less Favoured Areas (LFA)
The aid to farmers in Less Favoured Areas (LFA) provides a mechanism for
maintaining the countryside in areas where agricultural
production or activity is more difficult because of natural
handicaps. In place since 1975, it is a long standing
measure of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Why an aid to farmers in Less Favoured Areas?
In areas designated as "less-favoured", agricultural production or
activity is more difficult because of natural handicaps, e.g.
difficult climatic conditions, steep slopes in mountain areas, or low
soil productivity in other less favoured areas.
Due to the handicap to farming there is a significant risk of
agricultural land abandonment and thus a possibility of loss of
biodiversity, desertification, forest fires and the loss of highly
valuable rural landscape.
To mitigate these risks, the Less Favoured Areas (LFA)
payment scheme is an important tool, implemented by all the Member
States although it is not a compulsory measure.
Preserving the farmed landscape and forests is one of the key actions
identified by the
Community strategic guidelines for Rural Development
"Appropriate farming systems help to preserve landscapes
and habitats ranging from wetlands to dry meadows and mountain pastures.
In many areas, this is an important part of the cultural heritage and of
the overall attractiveness of rural areas as places in which to live and
The LFA scheme is part of Axis 2 of the Rural Development Policy for
2007-2013, which aims at improving the environment and the countryside
by supporting sustainable land management.
Council Regulation (EC) No
1698/2005 describes the objective of the LFA scheme as follows
"Natural handicap payments in mountain
areas and payments in other areas with handicaps should contribute,
through continued use of agricultural land, to maintaining the
countryside, as well as to maintaining and promoting sustainable farming
Which areas are currently designated as less favoured?
Under the Articles of Council Regulation (EC) 1257/1999 still in
force, an area may be classified as less favoured according to one of
three categories. Each category characterises a specific cluster of
handicaps, common to certain areas of agricultural land across Europe,
and which threaten the continuation of agricultural land use:
- Under Article 18, Mountain Areas are characterised as those areas
handicapped by a short growing season because of a high altitude, or by
steep slopes at a lower altitude, or by a combination of the two. Areas
north of the 62nd parallel are also delimited as Mountains.
- Under Article 19, 'Intermediate' Less Favoured Areas are those areas
in danger of abandonment of agricultural land-use and where the
conservation of the countryside is necessary. They exhibit all of the
- land of poor productivity;
- production which results from low productivity of the natural environment;
- and a low or dwindling
population predominantly dependent on agricultural activity.
- Under Article 20, Areas Affected by Specific Handicaps are areas where
farming should be continued in order to:
- conserve or improve the environment;
- maintain the countryside;
- preserve the tourist potential of the areas;
- protect the coastline.
The map shows the three existing categories of LFAs in the EU 27.
How does the LFA scheme works?
Not all farms within an LFA receive a compensatory allowance.
LFA beneficiaries are required to undertake to farm for at least
five years from the first payment and to farm a minimum area
fixed at the Member State level. In addition, Member States
apply a range of specific eligibility criteria.
LFA payments are granted annually per hectare of utilised
agricultural area. The level of the payment can vary between a
minimum of 25 €/hectare and a maximum of 200 €/hectare.
Facts and figures
57 % of the overall Utilized Agricultural Area in the EU is
classified as Less Favoured Area. Despite the wide percentage of surface
designated as LFA, only a limited proportion of farmers benefit from a
compensatory allowance. In 2005 approximately 1.4 million farms,
representing about 13% of the total number of farms in the EU25,
received support under all LFA schemes. Significant variations among
Member States can be observed, this variation is due to the eligibility
rules put in place by the Member States. The range of payments per
hectare can also be very variable, from 25 €/ha to 200 €/ha.
The financial support to LFAs amounted to €8 billion, approximately
18 % of the Community funding for Rural Development for 2000-2006. In the current programming period
2007-2013, the allocation of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural
Development (EAFRD) dedicated to the scheme is € 12.6 billion or 13.9 %
of the total Community funding allocation, corresponding to 32 % of the
resources devoted to the improvement of the environment and the
countryside by supporting sustainable land management (Axis 2 of the
Rural Development Policy).
Less Favoured Area scheme:
Commission staff working document: "Peak performance: New
insights into mountain farming in the European Union"