The European Parliament Agriculture Committee last night approved the draft secondary legislation that underpins the implementation of the future CAP.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “We have worked closely with MEPs to resolve the issues such as how much areas of nitrogen fixing crops would contribute towards the five per cent Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) requirement. I am very pleased that MEPs have managed to increase the value of areas of nitrogen fixing crops so that if a farmer grows 1ha of qualifying crop this would deliver 0.7ha of EFA rather than the 0.3ha originally proposed.
“It is now so important that Defra and the Welsh Government must allow farmers to count their nitrogen fixing crops towards the five per cent EFA and to make sure that there is no urge to gold-plate the rules by imposing any additional production constraints like limiting where they can be grown and the use of inputs.
“As harvest 2014 approaches, farmers are already looking ahead to next year. However, with some key Government decisions outstanding, particularly around the new “greening” rules, this delays their ability to plan crops for 2015.
“Without the broadest range of EFAs to count, including hedges, ditches, fallow land, areas of cover crops and nitrogen fixing crops and the use of the different weightings that recognise the environmental value of different land uses on farm, there is a real danger that English and Welsh farmers will be left disadvantaged again and be forced to lay productive land aside to reach the five per cent EFA requirement, while farmers elsewhere count their hedges and edges.
“I am also reassured that the Commission is willing to review the five per cent EFA rule in the first year. We need the Commission to undertake a similar review of the three crop rule, with a view to scrapping it at the earliest opportunity.”