April 14. 2024. 6:55

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Member states push to exempt low-input livestock from law to cut emissions

Rearing of cattle or pigs in farms using extensive production systems should be exempted from the scope of the EU’s plans to slash industrial emissions, according to a leaked draft of the ministers’ general approach, which also proposes a stepwise approach for when the new rules should apply.

The compromise text, seen by EURACTIV and presented during a meeting of the committee of permanent representatives to the EU (Coreper I) on Wednesday (8 March), comes with a view to “finding agreement at the Environment Council on 16 March”.

The proposed overhaul of the Industrial emissions directive (IED), unveiled by the EU executive in April 2022, aims to reduce harmful emissions coming from industrial installations, the scope of which is being expanded to include some of the largest livestock farms in the EU.

The draft compromise package recognises that the rearing of pigs, poultry and cattle “cause[s] significant pollutant emissions into the air and water,” and that, as such, it is necessary to “lower the threshold above which pigs and poultry installations are included within the [current directive] and to include also cattle farming within that scope”.

However, according to the draft, member states are pushing for the rearing of cattle or pigs in installations operating under extensive production regimes to be exempted from the scope of the IED.

They argue that this is is because livestock farmed in this way “contribute positively to preserving landscapes, forest fire prevention and protecting biological diversity and habitats”.

Extensive agriculture (as opposed to intensive farming) is a low-input production system primarily relying on natural or semi-natural grassland. As such, it requires small inputs of labour, fertilisers, and capital relative to the land area being farmed.

Extensive farming most commonly means raising sheep and cattle in areas with low agricultural productivity such as hill farming.

The exemption should cover installations with “pasture-based rearing of cattle or pigs with a low stocking density where the animals are kept outdoors a large part of the year,” the text specifies.

LEAK: EU emission cutting plan hits three times more pig, poultry farms than thought

The EU’s plans to slash industrial emissions could hit over three times as many pig farms and almost four times as many poultry farms as previously suggested due to the use of outdated 2016 data sets, according to a leaked Commission’s document seen by EURACTIV.

Meanwhile, the compromise text puts forth suggestions to stagger the rollout of the IED based on the size of the livestock farm.

This stepwise approach is designed to allow for time to “adapt to the new rules for smaller farms”, the text explains.

The text also proposes redefining the term LSU to mean a unit “used to express the size of farms rearing different categories of animals, using the conversion rates,” rather than the previous definition of the grazing equivalent of one adult dairy cow producing 3,000 kg of milk annually, without additional concentrated foodstuffs.

The compromise agreement will now be discussed at the 16 March meeting of EU environmental ministers, who lead on the file – and the text appears hopeful that a consensus will be reached.

“In view of the [EU Council] Presidency, the compromise package on rules and scope of agricultural activities balances the different views in the Council”, the text reads.


As per the definition set out in the European Commission proposal, one livestock unit consists of the grazing equivalent of one adult dairy cow producing 3,000 kg of milk annually.

According to these calculations, 150 livestock units are equivalent to 150 adult cows, or 375 calves, or 10,000 laying hens, 500 pigs, or 300 sows.