Coupling EU farm payments with commitments in the fields of environmental protection, human, animal and plant health and animal welfare is defined as "cross-compliance".

By global comparison, the European Union (EU) sets high standards in these fields. Because of these standards, which are high compared to competitors in other countries, direct payments from the EU agricultural budget are intended to compensate for higher production costs incurred by agricultural enterprises in the member states.

To also emphasize the legal aspect of linking EU agricultural payments to the protection standards, EU member state governments decided to accept a proposal by the European Commission and introduce cross-compliance under the 2003 agricultural reform. The granting of EU farm payments was also made contingent on compliance with certain obligations.

 All enterprises in the EU that receive

  • direct support under the first pillar;
  • payments for area-based and animal-based measures under the 2nd pillar (agri-environment-climate measures, support of organic and low-input sustainable agriculture, payments under Natura 2000 and the Water Framework Directive, payments for areas facing natural and other specific constraints, support under forest-environment and climate stewardship schemes, conservation of forests, first afforestation and the introduction of agroforestry systems) - or -
  • restructuring aid in the wine sector

are subject to these cross-compliance obligations. Enterprises claiming agricultural direct support under the small farmers' scheme are, however, exempted from this obligation.

Together with other EU rules and the implementing rules of the individual member states, Regulation (EU) No. 1306/2013 provides the specific individual provisions relevant in each case. In Germany, the national implementing rules are laid down in the Agricultural Support Scheme Obligations Law and the Direct Support Scheme Obligations Ordinance.

In all EU Member States the cross-compliance regime includes:

  1. The so-called "Statutory Management Requirements" (SMRs): These are the most important rules for farmers out of a total of 13 European legal acts that are relevant for farmers (directives and regulations) covering environmental protection, food and feed safety, labelling and animal registration, control of animal diseases, pesticide use and animal welfare. These legal acts have already been in force (in the case of directives in the way they were implemented by member states) as specialised law regardless of cross-compliance, but are now also specifically linked to the payments under cross-compliance.
  2. The so-called standards for the preservation of agricultural land in "good agricultural and environmental condition" (GLÖZ): They include seven standards which aim to reduce soil erosion, prevent the removal of landscape features, provide green cover for set-aside land and protect water bodies.

Compliance with the requirements is monitored by the competent authorities (e.g. veterinary offices, nature conservation authorities) or paying agencies on the ground using a sample of, generally, one percent of beneficiaries. In addition, there are controls based on specific events in individual enterprises, if necessary. Infringements identified are assessed according to seriousness, extent and duration, and the payments are reduced accordingly. In general, the reduction rate is three percent, with the possibility to impose lower rates (e.g. in case of minor infringements) or higher rates (in the case of serious, repeated or intentional infringements - in rare extreme cases even including the withdrawal of payments for one or even several years).

The BMEL works closely with the responsible Land Ministries to determine uniform nationwide control criteria that are limited to the minimum necessary to meet the protection goals. Information brochures provide detailed descriptions of these criteria and of the relevant laws and regulations. Some Länder also provide detailed checklists on cross-compliance obligations that are adapted to the situation in the individual enterprise. 

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