Three-crop rule derogation 'will make huge difference to flooded farmers'

NFU President Minette Batters

The Environment Secretary George Eustice has confirmed that the government intends to relax the crop diversification requirements known as the 'three crop rule' for farmers for 2020, as farmers in flooded areas have suggested they will have difficulty complying with the rule this year.

The three crop rule was brought over from EU law when the UK left the EU on 31 January, and requires farmers managing more than 30 hectares of arable land required to grow at least three different crops on that land. Farmers with smaller land-holdings are also subject to crop diversification requirements.

Responding to the government’s announcement of a derogation for farmers in England from the greening three-crop rule, NFU President Minette Batters said: “This derogation will make a huge difference to the thousands of farmers in England who have faced months of relentless heavy rain, waterlogging and flooding of fields leaving them unable to plant and establish crops for 2020.

“The unprecedented situation has meant farmers up and down the country have found it virtually impossible to have one crop in the ground, let alone three. Without a derogation they would have been forced down the bureaucratic ‘force majeure’ route that would require case by case assessments and needless paperwork.

“We first raised our concerns about the impact of the weather on farming businesses with Defra and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) last October and have continued to highlight this issue to government, including recently in front of Defra Secretary of State George Eustice at NFU Conference, so I thank him for listening to our concerns in making this decision.

“The derogation will not only be good news to those farmers impacted in areas that stretch well beyond the parts of the country that may be covered by the Farming Recovery Fund, it will provide some relief in dealing with the aftermath of the bad weather and will help to secure BPS payments later this year.

“Although the NFU has never been critical of the environmental intent of the crop diversification requirements, we have always been concerned that this EU-legacy scheme has never been applied with the flexibility needed to suit varying weather and farming situations in Britain.”

:: For more information on the greening rule please refer to the BPS guidance on the Gov.UK site here or here for 2020 once it has been updated.

More of the NFU's work on the three crop rule:

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