"European Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, Phil Hogan, has confirmed that he will agree to UK requests for EU rules on crop diversification to be relaxed following excessive rain that has delayed crop planting.
Commissioner Hogan confirmed the decision following requests from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in the UK, to exempt arable farmers in Northern Ireland and Scotland from the requirements for crop diversification under the greening provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Requirements will also be eased for farmers in other parts of the UK.
The decision to propose a derogation for arable farmers in Northern Ireland and Scotland and an easing of the rules for farmers in parts of England and Wales follows an earlier decision to propose a derogation for arable farmers in Ireland.
In all cases, exceptional and, in some cases, near-record levels of rainfall in recent months have left tillage farmers either unable to or with great difficulty in preparing the ground to sow crops, particularly spring crops, with the optimum sowing date having passed for the most commonly used crops.
In view of the exceptional levels of rainfall, which is supported by meteorological data, Commissioner Hogan has concluded that the only effective support that can be provided to farmers is to reduce the requirements for crop diversification, either through a full derogation from or an easing of those requirements."
We do not yet know how these words will translate into actual BPS greening requirements in England for BPS 2018.
There are key questions that remain to be answered, including:
- What does the statement mean by an ‘easing of the rules’?
- What does the statement mean by ‘parts of England and Wales’?
- When will Defra be able to give fuller detail?
- What messaging is going out to farmers?
- What will happen with the inspections for greening that should have started on 1 May?
- How will these changes interact with current BPS rules on flooded land and failed crop/cross compliance/cross border farmers etc?
What we do know is that:
- Defra Minister George Eustice took up the case with the European Commission as soon as it became clear that the wet weather had impacted on spring sowing plans.
- The Commission has agreed to relax the crop diversification requirements.
- In effect, what is now a three crop rule will become a two crop rule in all or parts of England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the requirement is removed entirely for 2018.
- But there is devil in the detail, with decisions to be taken over the coming days on the precise geographical areas in which the relaxation will apply.
Please look out for further information from the RPA/Defra on this development in the coming days.
The crop diversification rules in England can be found from page 33 of the 2018 Scheme Handbook found here.