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Environment and Agriculture


In the EU almost 50% of the territory is covered by farmland (both arable land and permanent grassland). Agriculture therefore plays a key role in land management and has a huge responsibility in the preservation of natural resources. The desired relationship between agriculture and the environment can be captured by the term "sustainable agriculture". This calls for management of natural resources in a way which ensures that their benefits are also available for the future. The agriculture sector performs its tasks with a view to the protection, preservation and improvement in the quality of water, air and soil, in the abundance of bio-diversity and in preservation and enrichment of the EU's landscape.

Given the important interactions between agricultural land use and environmental processes, appropriate environmental management in the sector is crucial for the achievement of EU environment policy targets. This objective cannot be reached only via environmental legislation but also need to be supported through changes in policies that affect the sector directly, in particular the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Measures in all policy domains need to take account of the positive as well as negative interaction of agriculture with the environment.

Main task of the agriculture sector in the DG Environment is to pursue the integration of environmental concerns into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), influence its developments and to ensure the continued "greening" of this policy and to decrease any adverse effects of agriculture on the environment.

Our tasks are:

1. to contribute to the development of policy on environmental issues with a link to agriculture (e.g. water, biodiversity, soil, air) and promote these issues when opportunities relating to the CAP present themselves. 

2. to work closely with DG AGRI on the future greening of Direct Payments, on the development of Cross Compliance and its application attached to direct CAP payments and Rural Development measures, and to ensure that, in the few remaining coupled Common Market regimes (CMO), environmental concerns are as well integrated as possible.

3. to work closely with DG REGIO on Partnership Agreements, and with DG AGRI in examining all the Rural Development Plans (RDP) prior to approval, as well as modifications which Member States propose, and seek to ensure that the measures proposed are compatible with environmental protection requirements, and that the most is made of environmental opportunities provided by Rural Development funding.

4. to contribute to the development of policy concerning environmentally friendly farming systems e.g. integrated production, organic farming.

5. to examine agricultural state aid proposals for environmental implications.

6. to contribute to discussions on the relationship between agriculture and the environment in relation to candidate countries and enlargement, and international fora such as the OECD and WTO.

7. to commission detailed studies when this is necessary to inform policy decisions.

8. to contribute to the formulation of indicators on the relationship between agriculture and the environment. 


Use of Phosphorus and its resource availability

 Phosphorus is widely used in agriculture and is an essential component of fertiliser and animal feed. But it is also a resource that has no substitute and one of the essential nutrients for all plants, animals and humans. Supplies are limited, prices have been volatile and much phosphorus is currently wasted, creating concerns about the cost and availability of future supplies in the EU and worldwide The Commission has been exploring ways to achieve a more sustainable use of phosphorus.


Links to activities of the European Commission in agriculture

(see mainly webpage of DG Agriculture and Rural Development or DG Health and Consumers "DG SANCO"):

Relation of agriculture to other sectors

(see mainly webpage of DG Environment and DG for Climate Action "DG Clima"):

AGRI-ENV correspondents group and its meetings

Agri-Environment Correspondents Group (AECG) has the objective of supporting the integration of environmental concerns into agricultural policy, and of reviewing the state of this integration. It was set up in 1997 at the request of the Environment Policy Review Group – the group of Environment Ministry Directors General that meets under the chairmanship of the DG Environment Director General. The aim of the AECG meetings is to provide a informal forum to discuss the interface between agriculture and environment, and related policies. Participants are encouraged to be open about integration issues. The summary records are short, and contributions are not attributed to particular Member States.