Analysis of instruments for measures and actions to reduce nutrient leakage from agriculture

Author: Several authors from many organizations and authorities, 2022
Omslag för rapporten Analys av styrmedel och åtgärder för att minska näringsläckaget från jordbruket.

The report can be find in Swedish at the website of Swedish Board of Agriculture.


The report has been produced by the participants in the action ”Analysis of instruments for measures in agriculture” which is part of the project LIFE IP Rich Waters.

The report presents results from an analysis of policy instruments and measures to reduce nutrient leakage from agriculture. In order to achieve the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive, the implementation of mitigation measuresin agriculture needs to increase.

Mitigation measures to reduce nutrient leakage

In an analysis of measures, we have identified eight suitable measures to reduce nutrient leakage and calculated the amount of agricultural land these measures require to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.

The costs of implementing these measures are calculated and distributed between the agricultural sector and the state budget, in case the measures are implemented with funding from government support.

The analysis results show that these measures are not sufficient to reduce nutrient leakage to the extent required to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.

When measures are partly funded by government support, the deficit from the state budget is estimated to be approximately 2.4 billion SEK over a seven-year period. Due to the large budget deficit, the Water Authorities have divided the need for action over two water management cycles 2021–2027 and 2027–2033 in their proposed Programmes of Measures for the Water Directive. The report also includes a review of some economic and informative policy instruments in other countries as well as a comprehensive review of legislation in Sweden and five other EU member states. The regulations in the Netherlands and Denmark are more complex than in other countries. The rules in other countries’ legislation mainly consist of the requirements needed to implement the EU Nitrates Directive.

Policy instruments

Existing and possible policy instruments to promote implementation of measures have been analysed on the basis of criteria such as feasibility, administrative costs and the impact on the state budget and agricultural expenditure. The voluntary measures, which mainly consist of compensation from the Rural Development Program and LOVA – support to local actions, have not resulted in a sufficient amount of mitigation measures. These need to be changed in order to increase the implementation of different mitigation measures.

When choosing between mandatory and voluntary instruments, the analysisshows that there are several advantages to continuing and developing the existing system of voluntary instruments to achieve an increased goal fulfillment. New mandatory measures entail large costs for agriculture and it is difficult to formulate accurate regulations and achieve effective measures. Acceptance of legal provisions is probably low both among farmers and among decision-makers.

Voluntary financial instruments should be followed by investments in advisory services and information that also create good conditions for catchment areaspecific working methods. It strengthens the implementation of mitigation measures in agriculture.

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