STEP Article for ARC 2020: CAP Strategic Plans: Support to High Nature Value Farming in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is identified as one of the Member States with the highest loss of HNV farmland in the EU, according to SWOT analysis accompanying the CAP Strategic Plan. By 2019, HNV farmland in Bulgaria has decreased by almost 40% compared to its initial designation in 2007, based on LPIS data. The decrease is highest for the permanent grasslands – from 950 000 ha to barely 440 000 ha in 2019. This is a substantial loss of valuable habitats of plant and animal species, as well as of open and/or mosaic landscapes and their deriving ecosystem services. The other serious decline is in the mixed land use category (mosaic landscape), which has decreased from 280 000 ha to 170 000 ha. At the same time, a large part of the HNV farmland of 2007, which was still eligible for support in 2019, has undergone a land use transformation and now nearly 66% of it is registered as arable land.

The Society for Territorial and Environmental Prosperity (STEP) is not a member of the official Thematic working group on CAP 2021-2027. However, we have been collaborating with the representatives of environmental NGOs to coordinate and streamline our positions, proposals and comments about the future CAP Strategic Plan. After one year in the public consultation process on the new CAP Strategic Plan, we observed a significant gap: the proposed agri-environment-climate interventions presented in the draft CAP Strategic Plan in Bulgaria lack a specific support focused on HNV farmland. The SWOT analysis digs no further on the reasons behind the loss of HNV farmland, the types of land that suffers most, or the effects of the current CAP interventions on it.

Also, there is a missing link between the SWOT, the needs assessment, the proposed interventions and the requirement for “no backsliding”. This is especially the case in the field of biodiversity in agricultural land, for example for support to High Nature Value (HNV) farmlands and landscape features on agricultural land.

Moreover, we discovered a worrying trend: the designing process of CAP 2021-2027 is open for comments but it lacks transparency on the follow up and final decisions about the proposals – who makes them, what justification, when, and so on.

In our views, this is a step backward since the new strategic plan might not include the agri-environment-climate schemes for HNV farming implemented in the last two programming periods (2007-2013 and 2014-2020) since Bulgaria’s accession. We carried out an in-depth analysis on the topic and presented five specific recommendations to increase the level of ambition in the support to HNV farming in Bulgaria. The article was published on the official website of ARC 2020.

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