Agri-environment schemes provide financial support for Member States to design and implement agri-environment measures (AEM). Each measure has a specific environmental objective, such as the protection or enhancement of biodiversity, soil, water, landscape, or air quality, or climate change mitigation or adaptation.
Many measures are multi-functional and are designed to bring simultaneous benefits for several environmental objectives. Each measure also involves paying those farmers who choose to adopt specific environmental-management practices on their farms.
A wide variety of management practices are promoted through the AEM mechanism, which reflects the complexity of both farming systems and ecosystems – examples of measures include: organic farming; integrated production; reducing inputs of fertilisers and/or pesticides; crop rotation; enhancing habitats for wildlife; introducing buffer strips; managing livestock to provide the right grazing pressure on grassland species and avoiding the risk of soil erosion; and conserving genetic resources in agriculture and local species and in animal breeds threatened by genetic erosion.
But what is the future of the AES? A debate has been started on a post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy, which will certainly include a discussion of the techniques, strategies and funding necessary for achieving our evolving picture of desired environmental outcomes.