Institute of Rural Studies

Deputy Director


Anja Herkner

Bundesallee 64
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5501
Fax: +49 531 596 5599

Institute of Rural Economics

Deputy Director

  • NN

Environmental impacts of the agricultural reform CAP


Arable land and grassland (c) Thünen-Institut/Sarah Baum
The Greening focuses on a more diverse land use of environmental interest (© Thünen-Institut/Sarah Baum)

The EU Commission decided in 2013/2014 to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The aim is a better distribution of the agricultural funds and a more environmentally friendly, „greener“, first pillar of the CAP. The reasons for the reform were the observation of dramatic declines in number of species in the agricultural landscape and persistently high inputs of nutrients and plant protection products (PPPs) into the soil and water. In addition, in regions with intensively used agricultural land, voluntary agri-environmental measures have rarely been implemented. The aim of this research project (GAPEVAL2) is to assess the impact of the CAP reform on the abiotic resource protection in Germany, based on the data from the Integrated Accounting and Control System (IACS). An additional goal is to develop alternative proposals for changes to achieve the objectives. The project builds on the findings of the previous GAPEval project.

Background and Objective

From 2014 to 2020 approximately one-third of the total budget of the EU will be spent on the CAP. Germany is the largest contributor to the overall EU budget. Therefore it has a great interest in ensuring that the public funds are used effectively and efficiently. In Germany, agriculture is by far the largest land user, with a large number of positive and negative environmental impacts on soil, water, air, climate and biodiversity.

Currently the future of the CAP after 2020 is under discussion. But so far there is little empirical evidence on the impact of the current CAP reform on environmental goods. Several reasons are recognized for this, of which only a few will be mentioned. The Greening was not introduced until 2015. As a result, it became clear to farmers only at the beginning of 2015 what specific conditions they would have to fulfil. In addition, national agri-environmental programs were newly launched in 2015. In summary, 2015 is seen as an adaption year. After the introduction, farmers first had to gather experience on how to implement these new instruments in the most sensible way. It can therefore be assumed that some effects will only occur after several years.

The research project has the following objectives:

The environmentally relevant effects of the CAP reform are to be examined on the basis of an environmental indicator set. The focus will be on the effectiveness and efficiency of the funds used. In addition, a spatially differentiated analysis of the implementation of area-related EAFRD measures is to be carried out (EAFRD: European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development). Furthermore, the costs of the individual greening measures will be estimated at the farm level. Finally, concrete and practicable proposals will be developed at the level of instruments and measures to increase the desired environmental impacts.

Target Group

Ministries of agriculture and environment, farmers, consultants, official nature conservation, agricultural administration, European Commission


First, the IACS data will be examined with regard to the following aspects:

  • The establishment of ecological focus areas
  • The implementation of grassland protection
  • The differentiation of cultivated plants
  • Other abiotic environmental issues

Second, the costs of greening are estimated by evaluating the 2016 agricultural structure survey and by an economic analysis of the greening measures. Finally, the results of the analysis will be evaluated and interpreted to derive recommendations for actions.

Additionally the Julius Kuehn Institute for Strategies and Impact Assessment (JKI-SF) will carry out a regionalized assessment of the environmental risk of pesticide use.

Data and Methods

IACS data from various federal states from 2010 to 2018 are used. This project is based on the already completed projects on greening (LINK ZUM DACHPROJEKT). The focus of the analysis is on the development of permanent grassland, the implementation of ecological focus areas and crop species diversity. The latter is not only investigated at the farm level, but also at the landscape level, since the increase in the average farm size is expected to lead to an increase in crop species per farm. Furthermore, the data will be analyzed with regard to the development of four further aspects: the farm size, location and relation of the fields as well as the farms to each other, the water erosion potential, the humus balance and the use of environmentally sensitive sites.

In order to prepare a well-founded analysis of the aspects listed in addition to the greening measures, the agri-environmental and climate measures of the federal states are also taken into account.

Our Research Questions

Establishment of Ecological Focus Areas

  • What contribution do the implemented options of Ecological Focus Areas make with regard to questions such as of erosion control, change in the humus balance and discharge risk for nutrients and pesticides?

Implementation of grassland protection

  • How much land is lost as a result of conversion to other agricultural uses?

What role does the non-application for conversion of grassland registered under IACS play and how much land is transformed to non-agricultural forms?

  • What differences are recognizable at the level of soil climate zones, protected areas, different location parameters and farm types?
  • What developments can be observed over time (intensity of use, grassland area)?

Crop species differentiation

  • Did cultural diversity change at the regional and local level?
  • Are there permanent changes in the scope of cultivation of certain crops?
  • Are there any changes in crop rotations?

Other abiotic environmental issues

  • What are the sizes and locations of the individual fields of a farm as a whole and in relation to each other?
  • How high is the water erosion potential or the erosion risk of the areas?
  • Flooding areas: How high is the risk, or rather what would be the effects of the direct input of agricultural inputs into aquatic ecosystems?
  • How high are the humus contents of the soils?
  • How is land use developing in environmentally sensitive locations? (organic soils or floodplains? )

Estimation of the costs of greening

  • How high are the individual adaption costs for the greening?
  • To what extent do farmers accept reductions in greening payments?
  • How should the greening measures be designed so that the implementation of measures with a high environmental effect becomes more attractive for the farms? What impact would it have if farms would increasingly implement measures with a high environmental impact?
  • Are the subsidies for greening measures and instruments used efficiently?

How can the efficiency of greening be improved?

Preliminary Results

The results will be presented and discussed with the stakeholders at a conference in autumn 2019.

The final results and recommendations for action derived there will be compiled in a final report. In addition to the ecological effectiveness of the greening measures also aspects of cost efficiency, administrative effort and legal certainty as well as the importance of accompanying instruments (advise, agri-environmental measures) are going to be addressed.

Finally a strategy paper is going to formulate the main results and recommendations relevant for the political implementation of the CAP.

Links and Downloads


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Umweltbundesamt (UBA)
    (national, öffentlich)


12.2017 - 12.2020

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: FKZ: 3717 11 2370
Funding program: BMUB - Umweltforschungsplan
Project status: ongoing

Publications to the project

hits: 5

  1. Röder N, Ackermann A, Baum S, Wegmann J, Strassemeyer J, Pöllinger F (2021) Geringe Umweltwirkung, hohe Kosten : Ergebnisse und Empfehlungen aus dem Projekt "Evaluierung der Gemeinsamen Agrarpolitik aus Sicht des Umweltschutzes II" [online]. Dessau: Umweltbundesamt, 26 p, Texte UBA 71, zu finden in <> [zitiert am 04.05.2021]
  2. Röder N, Ackermann A, Baum S, Wegmann J, Strassemeyer J, Pöllinger F (2021) Limited environmental impact and high costs : Findings and recommendations from the project "An Evaluation of the Common Agricultural Policy from the Perspective of Environmental Protection II" [online]. Dessau: Umweltbundesamt, 24 p, Texte UBA 76, zu finden in <> [zitiert am 11.05.2021]
  3. Pe'er G, Bonn A, Bruelheide H, Dieker P, Eisenhauer N, Feindt PH, Hagedorn G, Hansjürgens B, Herzon I, Lomba A, Marquard E, Moreira F, Nitsch H, Oppermann R, Perino A, Röder N, Schleyer C, Schindler S, Wolf C, Zinngrebe Y, Lakner S (2020) Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges. People Nature 2(2):305-316, DOI:10.1002/pan3.10080
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 316 kb
  4. Röder N, Ackermann A, Baum S, Böhner HGS, Rudolph S, Schmidt TG (2019) Small is beautiful? Is there a relation between farmed area and the ecological output? - Results from evaluation studies in Germany : paper prepared for presentation at the 172nd EAAE Seminar "Agricultural Policy for the Environment or Environmental Policy for Agriculture?" ; May 28-29, 2019, Brussels. 15 p
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 589 kb
  5. Birkenstock M, Röder N (2018) Gestaltung und Umsetzung der Gemeinsamen EU-Agrarpolitik ab 2021 - Übersicht über die politischen Debatten. Dessau: Umweltbundesamt, 66 p, Texte UBA 108