Growing evidence suggests that biodiversity in the agricultural landscape is declining sharply. Farmland birds are particularly affected, the population of the lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) has been decreasing strongly in Germany. Up to now the European Union has tried to tackle the problem of biodiversity loss mainly with voluntary (second pillar) agri-environmental schemes financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). However, only a small fraction of the agricultural land is enrolled in such programs. We analyze a potential scheme to protect the lapwing in order to identify drivers and inhibitors of acceptance. The analysis is based on a discrete choice experiment with 270 arable farmers in Germany. Results show that those scheme attributes associated with EAFRD compliance, the type of sanctioning and a minimum participation period of five years, particularly reduce the farmers’ acceptance. Results for other attributes indicate that farmers’ preferences and ecological requirements often contradict each other, so that they constitute an economic-ecological trade-off. Finally, the paper sketches how the identified weak spots of biodiversity protection schemes may be tackled under a different regime of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Here, we take up the current CAP reform proposals of the European Commission.