The Agri-environmental Programme (ÖPUL), Austria’s programme for the promotion of an agriculture which is appropriate to the environment, extensive and protective of natural habitats, advocates the environmentally sound management of agricultural areas.
ÖPUL 2015 comprises Measure 10 Agri-environment and climate measures, Measure 11 Organic farming, Measure 12 Natura 2000/Water Framework Directive payments and Measure 14 Animal welfare of the Austrian Rural Development Programme 2014–20.
Its goal is to achieve as comprehensive a participation of Austria's agricultural holdings as possible. ÖPUL's primary focus is the protection of water, soil, climate, biodiversity and cultural landscape as valuable natural resources.
The 5th edition of ÖPUL has been running since 2015 (ÖPUL 2015). ÖPUL 2015 consists of 24 sub-measures, most of which are offered across Austria. In-depth information on the individual measures and the Special Ordinance defining the specific eligibility criteria for measures are available on the BMNT and AMA websites.
On account of the high share of participating holdings and the high proportion of land included in the agri-environment measure, Austria ranks among the EU's top Member States.
Three amendments to the Rural Development Programme 2014-20 resulted in adjustments being made to ÖPUL.
In 2017, the option for newcomers to join the ÖPUL measures was extended by one year, which further increased the participation rate. After the introduction of a new animal welfare measure, subsidies have been available for the husbandry of pigs and male bovine animals in special humane stables since 2017. In addition to bedded lying areas, the animals must be provided added usable space.
Furthermore, 2017 saw an extension of the territory eligible for the measure Preventive ground water protection (to include the Federal Province of Upper Austria), the addition of subsidies for valuable areas requiring tending and the introduction of top-ups for the Federal Provinces in ÖPUL. In 2018, a new measure was introduced based on Article 30 of Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 concerning the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in the region extending from Graz to Bad Radkersburg, and the premium for the conservation of landscape elements was raised.
2019 saw the inclusion of new varieties in the measure Cultivation of rare agricultural crops.