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Brussels, 1 July 2008

Agriculture: Member States agree in principle to abolish obligatory set-aside

At a meeting of the Special Committee for Agriculture on Monday, the outgoing Presidency of the EU Council concluded that the vast majority of Member States will agree to abolish set-aside as proposed by the Commission in its CAP Health Check proposals. The change comes in response to the increasingly tight situation on the cereals market. Under these circumstances, farmers can already benefit from the measure as from their autumn 2008 and spring 2009 sowings. The end of the set-aside scheme will allow farmers to adjust their planting decisions and respond in advance to new market circumstances.

The abolition of compulsory set-aside from 2009 onwards is a part of the Commission's CAP Health Check proposal, which was adopted by the Commission on 20 May 2008 and it is currently under discussion in the Council, the European Parliament and the other European Institutions. Under the proposal, farmers will not be obliged to set aside land from production in order to be entitled to the amount fixed by the set-aside entitlements. The set-aside entitlements will be turned into to normal payment entitlements. The proposal is the logical follow-up of the Council decision to fix the rate for compulsory set aside at zero in 2008.


Set-aside was introduced to limit production of cereals in the EU and applied on a voluntary basis from 1988/89. After the 1992 reform, it became obligatory i.e. producers under the general scheme were required to set-aside a defined percentage of their declared areas in order to be eligible to direct payments. With the 2003 reform, they received set-aside entitlements, which give the right to a payment if they are accompanied by eligible land put into set-aside.

The rate of obligatory set-aside was initially decided every year but in 1999/2000 it was set permanently at 10 % for simplification purposes. In the new Member States that opted for the Single Area Payment Scheme (SAPS), farmers are exempted from the obligation of set-aside (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovak Republic,).

For autumn 2007 and spring 2008 sowings the rate of set-aside has already been set at 0%.

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