Main issues and challenges to HNV farming policy in SEE countries
The concept of High Nature Value farming is a novelty in all countries in South-Eastern Europe where the issues of negative environmental impact from agriculture to environment still come first to mind. But it is also an attractive concept for communicating the biodiversity benefits to policy makers in the countries (Koorberg, 2011).
At the same time, the political awareness of the needs and hurdles of these farms as well as the willingness to take a pro-active approach to address them are low. Additionally, there is little knowledge on the functioning mechanisms of the CAP support, thus the ability to formulate opinions on the current or future support options is limited (Chartier &Malcolm, 2010). Thus, the environmental integration in agriculture policy in SEE remains largely an EU-driven process. Where positive national developments have happened they have depended on the interest, talents and enthusiasm of a particular person (Djordjevic-Milosevic, 2011) instead of being a systemic process.
There are some good examples of what can be done for HNV farming with small amounts of the national budgets (Montenegro, Serbia). The big issues are related to the unpredictable nature of this support: decisions are taken annually both on the size of budget and the availability or indeed, cancelation of the measures (Serbia). Additionally, payments are often delayed putting farmers in difficult economic situations.
The support provided to farms is still not complex enough to cover all aspects of HNV farming and future EU standards in order to ensure a favorable environment for development – on farm investments, off-farm grazing ‘infrastructures’- water pools, shelters for shepherds and animals, etc.
Information, knowledge and capacity at local and regional level are all particular issues for the proper utilization of available national and EU funding. HNV farming exists under the most marginal circumstances with a range of social and economic pressures – farmers are ageing, education level is low, most of them are outside the official administrative and fiscal systems. The advisory systems need to accommodate these specific characteristic and provide adequate response to them instead of just offering general extension services.
Preparations for two of the main systems for administering CAP support – Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) and Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) have only started in Croatia, Macedonia and recently in Montenegro.
Given the large areas of common land use mostly for grazing, as well as the unresolved land ownership and land use issues, the implementation of EU area-based support schemes such as Agri-environment and Less favourable areas will face serious problems.
Coordination, communication and cooperation is a major gap at all levels – between national level ministries of agriculture and environment and finance, between national and regional and local level administrations, between governmental and non-governmental organizations, between research institutes and advisory services, between farmers and institutions.