Recommendations towards successful HNV farming policy in SEE
Often the discussions on the needs of HNV farming refer to small scale and subsistence farmers who are by far the dominant group of farmers in the region. However, the participants in the Regional HNV farming policy workshop all agreed that the High Nature Value is not a result of the scale of production but of the low intensity of production systems. Both Montenegro and Macedonia provided examples of commercial sheep farming of extensive production that maintain large areas of mountainous HNV grasslands.
The workshop recommendations are grouped in several key categories: policy and regulations, markets and consumers, information and awareness, and willingness for cooperation.
Policy and regulations
The baseline of the recommendations is that the official system for policy support doesn’t have to be a barrier to HNV farming – the specific rules require decisions of the national administration not EU one. For example, in Spain all land is eligible for support while in other countries such as Bulgaria million hectares are excluded.
Policy support to HNV farming needs to be multi-annual in order to provide farmers with the security and stability that taking all these serious decisions and steps to enter the official system will be worth it. Frequent changes in support measures and budgets are very problematic as they give no certainty for farmers to commit.
Contracts for policy support have to be at least of 5-year duration PLUS support for investments on farms since small or extensive farmers have no access to independent investment funds. Additionally, HNV farmers have to be prioritized in other RDP measures and national support schemes in order to have access to them –otherwise, they have no chances for competing.
Support is also needed for scientific research to reveal the economic benefits of this type of farming, including the ecosystem services it provides.
Better preparation for the implementation of CAP support is required in the candidate countries and this is especially relevant for HNV farming. The impact of purely technical interpretation of LPIS can be very damaging on support for grazing areas. A very considerate adoption of criteria and definitions has to be elaborated to make sure that it creates an enabling framework and not a barrier for support.
CAP is surely a very important tool for supporting rural areas but it only is not enough. Structural funds are also needed for community action and small enterprises. A number of existing EU legislation on veterinary and hygiene and land issues should be softer for HNV farming OR there should be specific modifications at national level to reflect the particular characteristics.
Information and awareness
A series of key questions need to be addressed in the region:
- What is the image of HNV farming?
- What is the perception of HNV farms?
- Who is interested in preserving HNV farming?
- Who are our new partners in HNV farming?
This requires improved information and awareness of policy makers and administrators at local, regional and national level. Support the national advisory services to become more aware, educated and informed on the needs and potential of HNV systems. Good examples of HNV farming need to be collected and promoted widely in the region.
But it also requires improved direct communication with farmers – are they consciously HNV farmers, are they willing to enter the official administrative and support system; will they continue to be HNV farmers once they enter the official system; what type of incentives will motivate them continue HNV farming?
Markets and consumers
Two key aspects of market related activities can bring public recognition for HNV farming and both of them are still rather underdeveloped:
- Monetarization of ecosystem services and the direct and indirect benefits to people and nature.
- Promotion and marketing of food and other products from HNV farming systems, including if necessary “HNV farming” label.
Wider collaboration of stakeholders:
- Collect and develop good practice to be multiplied. Work with people interested to work with local communities to agree on the best way for their development, including local projects like BSPB one supporting the maintenance of traditional grassland management and providing grant support to people.
- Branding and marketing of products, especially of family farms and local community.
- Organize a follow up conference from the workshop focused on high level policy makers, thus ensure that projects implemented by different NGOs create policy-related synergies in the region.
- Increase knowledge of people and institutions at local and regional levels. The development of concrete measures is important, but we also need to ensure that there is an adequate awareness rising related to it.
- Improve and strengthen cooperation between NGOs and Ministries of Agriculture.
- Nature conservation bodies can improve the applied research related to grasslands management.