Agriculture and Environment in EU-15 — the IRENA Indicator Report

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

Background and purpose

The IRENA operation (Indicator Reporting on the Integration of Environmental Concerns into Agriculture Policy) is a joint exercise between several Commission directorates-generals (DG Agriculture and Rural Development, DG Environment, Eurostat and DG Joint Research Centre, and the European Environment Agency (EEA) to develop agri-environmental indicators for monitoring the integration of environmental concerns into the common agricultural policy (CAP) in the European Union (EU-15). It is a response of the European Commission to the request of the Agricultural Council to develop a set of indicators for monitoring environmental integration in the CAP.

This report provides an assessment of the progress made in the development and interpretation of the agri-environmental indicators identified in COM (2000) 20 during the IRENA operation. The report builds on more than 35 detailed indicator fact sheets that can be found on the IRENA website: http://webpubs.eea.eu.int/content/irena/index.htm.

All indicators are evaluated according to their usefulness, focusing on key aspects identified by COM (2001) 144: policy relevance, responsiveness, analytical soundness, data availability and measurability, ease of interpretation, and cost effectiveness. A scoring scheme helps to classify the indicators in three categories: 'useful', 'potentially useful' and 'Low potential'. These scores and a more detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each indicator are compiled in indicator evaluation sheets.

The report also analyses agri-environmental relationships in the EU-15 within the DPSIR framework on the basis of the indicators developed and points to necessary future work in the development of agri-environmental indicators.

In addition, the IRENA operation includes an indicator-based assessment report on the integration of environmental concerns into the CAP. The assessment report builds on the analysis presented in this report and reviews possibilities for, and progress with, environmental integration in EU agriculture policy.

General trends in EU-15 agriculture

The utilised agricultural area (UAA) for EU-12 (1) decreased by 2.5 % between 1990 and 2000, affecting mainly permanent grasslands and permanent crops. The total number of livestock units was quite stable from 1990 to 2000 (EU-12), but trends vary for different livestock types and regions. In 1990, 44 % of the agricultural area of EU-12 was managed by high-input farms, but this decreased to 37 % in 2000. Low-input farms occupied the lowest share of the agricultural area (26 %) but this share increased to 28 % in 2000. In some regions the livestock stocking density has increased by more than 10 % mainly due to higher pig stocking density in Denmark, northern Germany, and north-eastern Spain.

Mineral fertiliser use declined from 1990–2001: total nitrogen (N) fertiliser consumption in
EU-15 decreased by 12 % and total phosphate (P2O5) fertiliser consumption in EU-15 decreased by 35 %. At the same time, the total estimated amount of pesticides used in agriculture increased by 20 % between 1992 and 1999 according to industry figures (ECPA).

Analysis of changes in farm types shows that between 1990 and 2000, the share of the agricultural area in the EU-12 managed by specialised farms increased by 4 %, whereas the area managed by non-specialised farms decreased by 18 %. The largest percentage change is the 'non-specialised livestock' farms type, which has fallen by 25 %. The area under organic farming reached 3.7 % of the total UAA of EU-15 in 2002, up from only 1.8 % in 1998. Organic production accounted for 2 % of EU-15 total production of milk and beef in 2001, but less than 1 % of total production of cereals and potatoes.

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