At the EU level, direct payments represent on average 30% of agricultural income. They provide farmers with a steady income and thus help to maintain agricultural production throughout the EU. They ensure the long-term survival of farmers and mitigate the negative consequences of price fluctuations or crop failures. At the same time, direct payments are rewards to farmers for their non-market-linked activities that, however, are essential for European society. 30% of direct payments are allocated for green direct payments, namely, for practices that preserve biodiversity and the quality of soil and the environment in general. They include crop diversification, maintaining environmentally sensitive permanent grassland and ensuring ecological focus areas (e.g. fallow land) on farms.
Farmers receive direct payments only on condition that they comply with the standards of environmental protection, of food security, of animal and plant health, of animal welfare, and that they take care of the good condition of arable land in general. This is called cross-compliance. Farmers who do not comply with these rules are refused such payments or can even be penalised.