Brussels – Member states of the European Union on Monday agreed to loosen the environmental regulations for farmers seeking subsidies under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The revision means farmers would face fewer hurdles when applying for CAP subsidies. For example, farmers would no longer be obliged to leave parts of their arable land fallow.

Lively protests brought the EU’s political centre in Brussels to a standstill in February, as farmers in convoys of tractors protested EU red tape. The CAP pays subsidies farmers rely on to stay afloat, but payments are conditional on strict environmental protection rules.

On March 15, the European Commission responded by proposing to loosen some of the CAP’s environmental regulations. The member states gave final approval to the proposals on Monday, which is extremely quick by EU standards. The European Parliament approved the measures on April 24.

In addition to lifting fallow land rules, the revised CAP will require member states to offer additional financial support for farmers who voluntarily leave some land unused.

The revision also loosens the rules requiring farmers to rotate the types of crops they grow. Farmers will be permitted to choose between rotating crops and diversifying them, provided the member state they work in has authorized this.

Member states will also be allowed to exempt certain crops and soil types from rules on tillage, soil cover and crop rotation or diversification.

EU countries would also be allowed to relax environmental rules more broadly when extreme weather strikes. (May 13)

The editorial responsibility for the publication lies with dpa.