Europe's hay meadows in decline - what are we losing and what can we do?
A test case for EU agriculture and biodiversity policy

Policy seminar, European Parliament, Brussels, 8 November 2012
Organized by the Pogány-havas Association with the support of the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, Sógor Csaba MEP, DG Environment and the Society of Biology UK.


“Hay meadows provide an immense range of benefits to farming communities and wider society. They create some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery and cultural landscapes. Simply to watch this natural, environmental and cultural heritage disappear before our eyes is, surely, not an option we can consider.” HRH the Prince of Wales


Brussels 2012

Pictured: Gergely Rodics (Pogány-havas Association), Csaba Sógor MEP, Rebecca Barrett (N Pennines AONB), Guy Beaufoy (EFNCP)
and Gwyn Jones (EFNCP). Also speaking: Giovanni Malfatti (Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform).



Traditionally managed hay meadows full of flowers, insects and other animal life are among the most biodiverse places in Europe and a source of joy, inspiration and beauty to all. They are a living part of our shared culture and heritage. They provide many environmental, social and economic benefits. They are protected by EU policy and subsidies. Yet they continue to disappear, through abandonment, intensification or conversion to other uses. This policy seminar discussed how European institutions can protect these treasures and support the farmers who manage them more effectively.


HRH Charles, Prince of Wales Video message Video
Gwyn Jones Meadows - touchstones of HNV farming? PPT
Rodics Gergely Europe's hay meadows in decline - what are we losing and what can we do? A case study from Eastern Transylvania. PPT
Rebecca Barrett The North Pennines, England PPT
Giovanni Malfatti The role and responsibility of the food industry PPT
Guy Beaufoy Hay meadows are in decline - what should the EU do about it? PPT
















Conclusions and Recommendations

Hay meadows fit well with the EU's 2020 priorities - they offer resource efficiency, a low-carbon economy and jobs in marginalised communities. EU biodiversity targets (both for habitats and species and ecosystem services) mean that we MUST halt hay-meadow decline.


In fact, hay meadows are good "miners' canaries" of High Nature Value farming:

  • Meadows are clearly part of the cultural landscape and understandable by farmers, policy makers and the public.
  • They are of undoubted biodiversity importance.
  • They are generally in poor condition and under great threat.
  • They are one of the first things to change.


"The miner's canary depends on the miner, but is more sensitive than him to changes which threatenthem both."


EU has agreed the aims and provides the instruments - but not all countries are delivering. The seminar gave the example of Romania, which has a commendable and ambitious scheme for HNV grasslands, but one which needs extending and to be better adapted for hay meadows. But other Member States are lagging far behind in using the tools provided by the EU to pursue EU priorities e.g. Spain has vast areas of HNV farming and hay meadows, but has very limited agri-environment schemes for them.


The EU institutions and governance systems do not ensure consistent effort to deliver EU priorities, or best practice - a situation which makes a mockery of EU goals and institutions. Agri-environment schemes are essential but not enough - we also need measures to support the farming systems and economy.In this context local projects make a crucial difference - they multiply the benefits of top-down schemes. The seminar heard examples from Romania and England.


Post 2013 we must:

  • Continue to transfer funds from Pillar 1 to agri-environment.
  • Have agri-environment schemes which are better adapted and supported by other measures, including local projects funded by Pillar 2.
  • Put in place rigorous ex ante evaluations for Priority 4 (Natura 2000 and HNV farming), and measures that are a response proportionate to the identified needs.


To measure policy effects we need monitoring systems using sample surveys of:

  • Extent and condition of hay meadows.
  • Farming systems and practices.


All countries should already be doing this under the Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (CMEF) for Pillar 2, but most are not doing it; from 2013, the indicators will apply to the whole CAP, so it becomes even more important that they are implemented.


Download poster


For more information visit:

Publication from hay meadow conference 2010

The Pogány-havas Association presented on the website of EFNCP

Treasures of Transylvania


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