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Set-aside was introduced as a political measure by the European Union (EU) in 1988 to (i) help reduce the large and costly surpluses produced in Europe under the guaranteed price system of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); and (ii) to deliver some environmental benefits following considerable damage to agricultural ecosystems and wildlife as a result of the intensification of agriculture. It has now been abolished.

Set-aside became compulsory in 1992, primarily as a means to reduce the “grain mountain” as part of the Common Agricultural Policy. It was originally set at 15% and reduced to 10% in 1996. Following the introduction of decoupled payments in 2005, farmers who had historically claimed set-aside were awarded a number of set-aside ‘entitlements’ equivalent to the area they had previously set-aside. In order to receive payment on these set-aside entitlements, an equivalent number of hectares had to be removed from agricultural production.

On 16 July 2007 the European Commission (EC) announced its intention to publish a proposal to reduce the set-aside requirement to 0% in 2008, and the proposal was adopted on 26 September 2007. This was to help mitigate current shortages in the EU cereals market and increase cereals supply to the market and therefore reduce prices following two consecutive lower EU harvests.

The EC agreed in November 2008 to abolished set-aside completely through the CAP Health Check.

It was recognised that set-aside had delivered some important environmental benefits. In the UK the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) investigated the best way to recapture the environmental benefits lost as a result of set-aside being abolished. A consultation ran from 4 March to 27 May 2009, covering proposed changes to the cross compliance Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) and related measures in England, including recapturing the environmental benefits of set-aside. Two possible alternatives to set-aside were considered – a combined regulatory/incentive approach and a purely voluntary approach, led by industry.

On 9 July 2009 Defra announced the decision to pursue an industry-led voluntary approach, known as the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, to recapture the environmental benefits of set-aside.

More information is available via: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website

See also


Defra UK - Farming - Set-aside

Defra UK - News Release 9th July 2009 - Benn backs farmers’ green offeren:Set-aside



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