Guidance for farmers claiming for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in 2020 who are facing severe difficulties because of heavy rain and flooding.
Eligibility for 2020 BPS and greening payments
Land that is temporarily flooded remains eligible for BPS and can be claimed on as normal. However, some farmers are becoming concerned that they will have difficulty meeting their crop diversification requirements (the 3 crop rule) to qualify for the greening element of the payment. This accounts for approximately 30 per cent of the total value of BPS.
If you are in this situation, the following guidance will help you clarify your position and safeguard your greening payment.
Exemptions from the crop diversification requirement for 2020
If your normal cropping pattern is disrupted, the crop diversification requirements you will have to satisfy may differ from previous years.
If the area in fallow, temporary grass and leguminous crops together makes up more than 75% of your arable land, you will be exempt from crop diversification requirements in 2020. A further exemption may apply if more than 75% of all the agricultural area (all of the claimed land apart from woodland and ineligible areas) is permanent or temporary grassland.
Guidance on fallow management requirements and meeting your crop diversification requirements can be found on page 38 of the Basic Payment Scheme: rules for 2019. You may also find it useful to read the Greening workbook for the Basic Payment Scheme in England.
Other ways to meet your 2020 crop diversification requirement
If you were unable to plant winter crops due to the extreme weather conditions, there are a number of options available to help you meet your crop diversification requirement.
- Land left uncropped can be managed to count as fallow for crop diversification requirements. Remember that fallow and temporary grass each count as arable crops to meet the crop diversification rules
- Use spring cropping to help meet crop diversification rules, remembering that spring and winter varieties count as different crops independent of their sowing date. See page 68 of the BPS 2019 scheme rules for further details on eligible crops
- Failed crops can count as the crop originally established, or be managed to count as fallow land. However, supporting evidence will be required (for example seed invoices and delivery notes, crop records or photographs) if it is no longer possible to identify the crop was in the field
Management requirements for fallow land If you will be using fallow land as a crop to count towards your crop diversification requirements, it must be present from 1 May 2020 to 30 June 2020. During that period you may:
- apply plant protection products including herbicides, fungicide, insecticides
- carry out drainage work (including mole draining)
- sow wild bird seed mixes and/or nectar sources and/or pollen sources
- use cultivation to control weeds (for example, blackgrass, ragwort, hemlock)
- top green cover or previous crop residue
You must not:
- carry out any form of production including sowing, harvesting or grazing except where you are sowing grass specifically for a rural development agri-environment scheme or wild bird seed mixes, pollen sources or nectar source
- plough or cultivate the ground unless it is to control weeds (for example, blackgrass, ragwort, hemlock)
- apply fertiliser or farmyard manure except where you have sown wild bird seed mixes and/ or nectar sources and/or pollen sources on land included in a Countryside Stewardship agreement and these activities are permitted under that agreement. If you want to use your fallow land to meet your Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements as well as for crop diversification, there are more restrictive management rules which must be followed from 1 January – 30 June 2020. These can be found in the BPS 2019 Scheme rules on page 56
Force majeure and exceptional circumstances
If bad weather or flooding prevents you from meeting your crop diversification requirements, you may be able to claim force majeure because of the impact of forces beyond your control.
Spring cropping is a possible option available if you have been unable to plant winter crops. We would not consider a force majeure request from you for being unable to meet the crop diversification rules until later in spring 2020. This is when the full impact of the adverse weather conditions and the final impact on spring cropping can be assessed.
However, if it becomes clear that it won’t be possible to establish spring crops on your land, you should collect evidence to support a possible future claim.
Other force majeure requests relating to other matters can and will be considered at any other time and will have their own point when the ’15 working day’ notification period starts.
The following points will help you.
- Force majeure is defined as abnormal and unforeseeable circumstances outside of the farmer’s control, the consequences of which, in spite of the exercise of all due care, could not have been avoided without excessive sacrifice
- If you believe that wet weather and poor ground condition has prevented you from meeting BPS scheme rules, you must inform RPA of your circumstances within 15 working days from the date on which you are in a position to do so. This is taken from the point that you realise you cannot meet the rules, not necessarily from the force majeure event itself
You will need to provide evidence explaining why the wet weather prevented you from meeting the BPS scheme rules. This should include details of the actions you took, or were unable to take, with an explanation of the events and the dates they occurred. Examples of appropriate evidence would include:
- rainfall data, related to your farm or local area, showing that rain was exceptional on your farm during the period when you would normally be drilling or planting crops.
- seed invoices supported by delivery notes
- evidence of soil types
- crop records including drilling dates, if applicable
- evidence of your original cropping plans for 2020
- letters from suppliers unable to supply the seed you wanted
- photographs showing the conditions in your fields. Ideally these should be date-stamped and contain reference features that can be related to a map so that the position you took the photo from can be identified
Send force majeure requests and supporting evidence to:
Rural Payments Agency
PO Box 352
We recommend that you use a postal method with tracking and proof of posting.
Farm Recovery Fund
If you are facing additional costs to recover from exceptional weather events, you may be eligible to claim from the Farming Recovery Fund established by Defra.