New EU Common Agricultural Policy regulations, negotiated last year, mean that farmers must ensure five per cent of their land is set aside from farming as an Ecological Focus Area (EFA) to receive their full payment under the Basic Payment Scheme, which replaces the Single Payment Scheme in 2015. Greening regulations cover three areas: EFAs, crop diversification and the maintenance of permanent grassland.
To give farmers flexibility with these regulations on EFAs, we have today announced a package of options for farmers to choose from when deciding what on their land will form their EFA. This will allow farmers to continue to grow food and support the rural economy. The options are to:
- leave land fallow
- create buffer strips
- use ‘catch and cover crops’ for soil fertility and quality
- use Nitrogen Fixing Crops like legumes
- use hedgerows
Because hedgerows need to be digitally recorded and validated by the Rural Payments Agency, farmers using hedgerows may be requested to submit their claims for payment earlier or receive their payments later than usual.
These options are intended to make it as easy as possible for farmers in England to meet the EU requirements on greening. We believe environmental benefits from the rural economy are better delivered through the Rural Development Programme which is why we have transferred £3.5 billion of the total Common Agricultural Policy budget in England (£15 billion) into the new Rural Development Programme to ensure this remains the focus of environmental improvements and rural economic growth.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
“We want farmers to be free to do what they do best: producing food and helping to grow the economy. I have said all along the EU’s CAP reform is very far from perfect but we have worked hard to remove the worst aspects and to make the these new rules as easy as possible by giving farmers flexibility on how they are implemented, as well as reducing the burden of regulations.
“We have allocated £3.5 billion to rural development schemes, which we believe is a much better way of improving the environment and growing the rural economy.”
All CAP customers will be able to use the new online CAP Information Service in the coming months to include details of their ‘land cover’ across their land parcels, to show how they will create Ecological Focus Areas on their land. Customers will need to use the new online mapping tools to do this, and the Rural Payments Agency will then validate the changes customers make to their land parcels ahead of the 2015 claims window for the Basic Payment Scheme. More details on how and when to go online will be available soon.
You can keep following this blog to find out more about greening or you can visit our website where the latest information is always available, including ‘Greening: work out what it means for you’ which was published ahead of this announcement, on 9 June.