Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Going, gone: Three-crop rule scrapped for good

August 18, 2020 by  
Filed under News & Business

Farmers will no longer be required to comply with complex rules to receive support payments – including the controversial requirement to grow at least three crops.

The government announced it was scrapping the crop diversification rule from the direct payments regime for 2021 last month – and ditching rules requiring farmers to maintain a proportion of their land in designated ecological focus areas.

The three-crop rule had already been scrapped for the current year following extreme weather last autumn. But the permanent change means 30% of the current overall basic payment associated with these conditions will now be reallocated to the basic scheme entitlements.

Clarification

NFU vice-resident Tom Bradshaw said: “The NFU has been seeking clarification of the greening rules for the 2021 scheme for many months, particularly around the position on the crop diversification rules, so that our members can plan their cropping for harvest 2021.

“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.”

Changes to greening rules would remove some of the complexities farmers faced in interacting with multiple scheme rules, said Mr Bradshaw. The three-crop rule was unsuitable for many farms and it was questionable whether it delivered any environmental benefit.

“At the same time, I am confident that farmers will use experiences of greening to develop their existing approaches to land management and build on their invaluable role working to protect and enhance the environment.”

Encouraging news

Country land and Business Association president Mark Bridgeman said the end of greening was encouraging news. “For too long we have had to accept well-intentioned but impractical requirements that have not delivered for the environment.”

The move to a new system of payments was an opportunity to change the relationship between farmers and government, said Mr Bridgeman. But it must be practical, provide real environmental benefits and work with different farming systems.

The government’s forthcoming Environmental Land Management scheme will reward farmers who undertake environmental measures on their land. It is being phased in as the basic payment scheme is being phased out – and will be fully up-and-running by 2024.

Mr Bridgeman said the transition period must be carefully managed. “Reducing direct payments, even if administration is also reduced, will still have an impact on farming businesses if the profile of cuts is too steep,” he warned.

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