CAP Direct Payments

It sets out the rules for direct payments made to support farmers under the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP). These payments are made on the condition that farmers meet strict rules on the health and welfare of people and animals, plant health and the environment — known as cross-compliance.

In December 2017, the EU adopted Regulation (EU) 2017/2393 which amends Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013, as well as other legislation relating to the CAP (Regulations (EU) No 1305/2013 setting up the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, (EU) No 1306/2013 laying down financing, managing and monitoring rules for the EU agricultural policy, (EU) No 1308/2013 on the common organisation of agricultural markets in the EU and (EU) No 652/2014 on the management of expenditure relating to the food chain, animal health and animal welfare.


Direct payments to farmers are paid through support schemes in each EU country.

EU countries must dedicate a certain proportion of their CAP funding allocation to compulsory support schemes:

  • standard per-hectare payments — to distribute support more fairly, all EU countries had to move towards a uniform payment per hectare from 2015 (a ‘basic payment scheme’);
  • green payments per hectare — to be granted to farmers for observing practices beneficial for the climate and environment (30% of national funding allocation);
  • young farmer per-hectare payment — for farmers no more than 40 years old, setting up for the first time as head of their farm, up to 5 years before claiming support; this payment is available for up to 5 years.

There are also some optional support schemes. EU countries can choose to:

  • support smaller farms by paying a higher amount on the first hectares (‘redistributive payment’);
  • grant additional payments for areas with natural constraints;
  • grant limited amounts of production-related support (‘coupled support’ — payments linked to specific crops or types of livestock) to help agricultural sectors in their own country which are in difficulty;
  • offer a simplified scheme for small farmers — an annual payment of up to €1,250.


From 1 January 2018, the new rules contained in Regulation (EU) 2017/2393 came into force and include the following:

  • only active farmers (meaning those whose agricultural activity is not insignificant) could be granted direct support. However, in some EU countries, the administration became too burdensome. In particular, claimants operating airports, railway services, waterworks, real estate services, and permanent sport and recreational grounds were considered inactive except if they proved otherwise. Its application has now become voluntary for EU countries;
  • some aspects of the rules applying to green payments have been simplified, especially for crop diversification requirements;
  • an extension of the permanent grassland definition
    • EU countries may decide to include certain shrubs or trees that produce animal feed in permanent grassland where grasses and other herbaceous forage predominate, in the whole or part of their territory;
    • they may consider land not ploughed up or used for crop rotation for 5 years or more as a criterion for the classification of permanent grassland;
  • young farmers are now able to more easily access all 5 years of payments;
  • EU countries’ responsibilities in regard to the production-limiting nature of coupled support are clarified;
  • the types of areas of ecological interest (Ecological Focus Areas) are extended to cover areas on which plant varieties such as Miscanthus and Silphium perfoliatum are grown, as well as to land lying fallow for plants that are beneficial for pollinators.

This article is derived from European Union public sector information. EU public information is reproduced pursuant to Commission Decision of 12 December 2011 on the reuse of Commission documents (2011/833/EU) (the EU Decision).

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