EU countries agree on agricultural reforms, eco-schemes

Luxembourg - EU countries have agreed on reforms to the bloc's common agricultural policies in the early hours of Wednesday after two days of negotiations in Luxembourg.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council, a body of the relevant ministers, agreed to push for greener policies through measures including so-called mandatory "eco-schemes."

Two-year pilot phase

As part of the suggested reforms, farmers must adopt certain environmental practices in exchange for direct payments from the EU. But under the eco-schemes those who go beyond the basic requirements would get additional funding.

There will be an initial two-year pilot phase of the eco-schemes, according to a press release.

The council has to negotiate with the European Parliament before it can be adopted.

The targeted climate-friendly practices include precision farming, agroforestry, and organic farming, according to a council press release.

Agriculture is seen as one of the most damaging factors for the environment.

Widespread subsidy dependence

The EU states agreed to reserve at least 20 per cent of direct payments for such schemes.

Many farmers are dependent on direct payments from Brussels, while also fearing the impact of expanded environmental regulations.

The European Commission put forward a comprehensive agricultural reform proposal in 2018 for 2021 to 2027. But a two-year transitional phase has been put in place, meaning new rules won't come into force until 2023.

EU states have earmarked some 387 billion euros (459 billion dollars) for agriculture until 2027 - the largest allocation in the EU budget.