Perennial grassland restoration in the home stretch: EC approves Lithuania's proposal

Asociatyvi nuotr.

The European Commission (EC) has submitted amendments to the Delegated Regulation concerning the provisions on the maintenance of permanent grassland to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament (EP). It proposes that areas of permanent grassland which are not currently declared but are in the declaration system (permanent grassland land use) should be counted. Thus, with the adoption of the amendments, which are of particular interest to Lithuanian farmers, farmers declaring crops would not need to restore permanent grassland in the current year.

„The EC has taken a serious look at the problem of restoring permanent grassland, which is the most pressing issue for our farmers at the moment, and has listened to Lithuania's rational proposal, which could reduce the difference between the annual ratio of permanent grassland area and the reference area, and has included it in the amendment of the delegated act that has been submitted to the Council for consideration. This means that Lithuanian farmers will not have to restore grassland for years. Of course, it is necessary to find a sustainable long-term solution for perennial grassland so that we do not have to face the same situation in a few years' time," said Kęstutis Navickas, Minister of Agriculture.

In December last year, on the basis of the results of the 2023 crop declarations and the mandatory actions, where the ratio of permanent grassland decreased by more than 5% compared to the 2018 reference ratio, decisions on the restoration of ploughed permanent grassland were sent to farmers. Following active negotiations between the Ministry and the EC, these decisions were suspended pending an assessment by the EC which could lead to a reduction of the annual difference of the ratio of permanent meadows from the reference ratio.

Minister of Agriculture K. Navickas has discussed possible solutions to the most important perennial grassland issue for Lithuania with EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski on several occasions, and has spoken to Norbert Lins, the head of the EP's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

In February, the EC presented to the Council of EU Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers a package to reduce the administrative burden on farmers, which echoed Lithuania's request to review the requirements for the offsetting of permanent grassland.

The Commission's amendments to the delegated regulation submitted by the Commission to the EU Council and the Parliament on the provisions for the maintenance of permanent meadows are expected to enter into force retroactively as from 1 January 2024, meaning that farmers will not need to restore permanent meadows in 2024.

„I would like to underline that the main regulation of the strategic plans remains unchanged, the 5% change threshold remains in place, so the GAAB1 standard should be respected by all farmers with declared areas of established permanent grassland. They must be protected and ploughed if we do not want to face the problem of keeping permanent grassland again in the future," stressed Minister Navickas.