Currently, agricultural land covers about 45 per cent of the European territory 1. This high coverage of land makes agriculture an excellent partner to conserve nature. For this reason, several schemes have been set up to help farmers execute conservation.
Although farmers have to comply with several standards that are set out by the EU and several governments, these are not touched upon here, as they are not an opportunity, but rather an obligation for the farmer.

Furthermore, the different schemes are split up, according to the action a farmer has to undertake. It makes this list very different from other attempts to split up different measures, as these mostly focus on the environmental objective of the policy.

Finally, it has to be said that although this covers a broad range of countries throughout Europe, this list does not aim to mention all measures that have been taken by every country accurately. Rather it wants to provide a list of possible activities to give an overview to farmers.

Agri-environmental schemes

In Europe, farmers need to comply with several environmental regulations. Nevertheless, agricultural biodiversity is still decreasing 2. Therefore, a voluntary scheme that introduces environmental measures on agricultural land was introduced. A lot of freedom towards the measures implemented in this scheme is left to members states, but it is obligatory for a member state to have agri-environmental schemes.

The scheme itself gives farmers funds for implementing certain environmentally friendly practices, crops or elements on their fields. Action is taken for five years, but can be extended as well.


Since the 2014 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), greening requirements have been introduced. Although they are not obligatory, 30 per cent of the income support is linked to this scheme. The scheme consists of three different measures that have to be met. These include maintenance of permanent grassland, crop diversification and the implementation of ecological focus area. The latter means the application of certain sustainable practices on five per cent of the land.

Less Favoured area payment

In some areas in the European Union, agricultural production is more difficult because of natural handicaps. For this reason, there is a high risk of land abandonment and consequent risk of loss of several benefits the agricultural landscape provided. In these areas, often extensive farming occurs, which is environmentally friendly. Therefore, payments are given to farmers to stay in agriculture. The scheme, set up in 1975, currently covers 57 per cent of the European agricultural area 3.


  • European Commission. EU Agricutural Outlook for the Agricultural Markets and Income 2017-2030. (2017).
  • Pe’er, G. et al. Adding Some Green to the Greening: Improving the EU’s Ecological Focus Areas for Biodiversity and Farmers. Conserv. Lett. 10, 517–530 (2017).
  • European Commission. Less favoured areas scheme. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/rural-development-previous/2007-2013/less-favoured-areas-scheme_en. (Accessed: 10th July 2018)