New regulations that give farmers flexibility over how they implement EU rules have been announced today by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
Under new EU regulations, known as greening, farmers must ensure 5 per cent of their land is set aside as an Ecological Focus Area (EFA), instead of beingused for farming.
To ensure that farmers are able to continue their essential work of growing food, improving the environment and boosting the rural economy, Defra has chosen a package of options which give farmers flexibility over how they comply with the rules.
Farmers will be able to choose how to meet the EFA requirement from a list which includes land lying fallow, buffer strips, ‘catch and cover crops’ used to manage soil fertility and quality, Nitrogen Fixing Crops such as legumes and hedgerows.
To receive CAP payments, farmers also have to adhere to ‘cross compliance’ environmental regulations. To reduce the burden on farmers, Defra has cut these measures from 17 to 11.
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 disappointing, but we have worked hard to remove the worst aspects and to make these new rules as easy as possible and given 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.
To ensure that the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) can process all claims accurately, farmers taking the hedgerow option may be requested to submit claims earlier and may need to expect payments later. This is because hedgerows will need to be digitally recorded and verified by the RPA to meet EU requirements and avoid the risk of penalties for farmers or the taxpayer.
Farmers are required to implement ‘greening’ measures by EU rules, or they will lose up to 30% of their Basic Payment Scheme payment. The greening rules cover three areas – crop diversification, Ecological Focus Areas, and measures to maintain permanent grassland.
Defra argued against greening requirements forming part of the Basic Payment Scheme, known as pillar one of the CAP, during EU negotiations. This is because we believe environmental benefits are better delivered through the Rural Development Programme, known as pillar two of the CAP.
Defra has transferred a greater proportion of our overall £15 billion CAP budget into pillar 2, which will mean £3.5 billion will be available for schemes to improve the environment and grow the rural economy.