Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has announced further details of what the new CAP greening rules will mean for English farmers – while calling on the EU to provide urgent clarity on the outstanding issues and review the three crop rule.
The new guidance aims, within the constraints set by Brussels, to be as simple and flexible as possible. Defra says this is part of the new Secretary of State’s drive “to enable farmers to compete both nationally and internationally and take advantage of the growing opportunities that exist for top-quality British food”.
Many farmers and their representatives – including the NFU – have deep concerns about the impact of the new greening criteria and three crop rule on their businesses. Defra claims the British Government has sought to make them as simple and straightforward to implement.
In a statement the department said: “Whether a farmer grows traditional arable, potatoes, salads or speciality crops – Defra does not want them to be adversely affected”.
It says the three crops can be grown over the course of a year. To minimise the disruption caused to businesses, a two-month inspection window of May to June has been set for the five percent of farms that will be inspected. This should cover the vast majority of crops in England. If any crops have been harvested before 30 June, stubble will count as evidence that a crop has been grown.
“Defra wants more evidence to be acceptable, such as physical signs or organic matter in the soil, or photographs and records,” the department says. “Ministers have also committed to work with industry to explore exceptions for late-sown crops or crops with very short growing periods”.
Further details on the hedge requirements have also been announced, with Defra pressing the EU for the final details.
A spokesman said: “Building on the excellent work that many farmers and landowners already do for the environment, details of the successor to the environmental stewardship scheme will be announced in the Autumn. “The scheme will start in 2016 and seek to achieve the best outcomes in the simplest way with the least amount of red tape”.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “Food and farming is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector and a key component of the Government’s long term economic plan.
“I want farmers and growers to be able to play their part in boosting exports, increasing self-sufficiency and ensuring that as many people as possible, from patients in hospital to hard-pressed families doing the weekly shop, are able to enjoy fresh, local and tasty food.
“I will press the Commission for increased clarity and flexibility on greening, including a review of the three crop rule. I will champion the interests of our farmers so that they can continue to concentrate on what they do best – producing top-quality, world-class food.”
Under the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), greening will account for around 30 per cent of claimants’ direct payments. Defra’s latest leaflet provides updates on the new cross-compliance measures and the online payment system. It also encourages farmers to consider the opportunities available to attract bees and pollinators to their land as part of the new CAP rules. This is a key priority for the Government.
There is also more information about the new online service – called the CAP Information Service (CAPIS) – which will be on GOV.UK and will be used to apply for all the new CAP schemes and to keep track of payments. It is being rolled out in a phased and controlled way.
At each step of the countdown to the new CAP, information will be made available to help people understand how it will affect them, what they need to do and by when, to move as smoothly as possible to the new schemes and IT service.
Nevertheless the NFU is also to continue its roadshow meetings to support farmer members as they get to grips with the new Common Agricultural Policy, particularly the greening measures.
In responding to Defra’s guidance to farmers on new greening measures and how they work in practice NFU president Meurig Raymond said he remained “disappointed.”
The union accepted the guidance gave much-needed information to farmers and growers who were about to plant this autumn, but Mr Raymond said there were areas still lacking in detail.
“We have held around 40 events, attended by more than 2,000 farmer members to look at this issue – and as a result we have fed-in more than 100 questions and concerns on the outstanding detail to Defra,” said Mr Raymond.
“I am pleased to see we now have further information on what is an extremely complex policy area. However, I am hugely frustrated that we still don’t have clarity about how all hedges, which are part of ecological focus areas, are measured. This means farmers still have a challenge in knowing exactly what the rules are if they wish to use this EFA feature which they have on farm.
“A lack of timely guidance from the European Commission seems to be significantly hindering Defra’s ability to implement a full set of scheme rules. I would urge the Commission to put this right so that farmers have the clarity and guidance to make necessary, practical business decisions.?
“For its part, the NFU will continue meeting with members in a second series of roadshows this autumn to guide them through this process and we will update our support for farmers based on the guidance received today and in the coming months.”
The NFU will be highlighting elements of the fuller greening rules regularly from now on via NFU online and its weekly bulletin. Members should use NFU Callfirst for CAP queries on 0870 845 8458. Anyone interested in reading more about CAP Reform and the discussions that are taking place – including the Defra consultations – should go to www.gov.uk/cap-reform.