Earls Colne: Three crop rule for CAP ‘biggest concern’ for region’s farmers

Ed Barker of the Country Land and Business Association addresses delegates at a CAP reform talk at Colne Valley Golf Club, Colchester, on Monday Ed Barker of the Country Land and Business Association addresses delegates at a CAP reform talk at Colne Valley Golf Club, Colchester, on Monday

Saturday, March 29, 2014
4:00 PM

The business practices of many landowners in Suffolk and Essex will have to be “fundamentally reassessed” because of the new ‘greening’ criteria in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), according to an agricultural adviser.

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Ed Barker of the Country Land and Business Associaton (CLA) said the biggest area of concern was the crop diversification part of greening – also known as the ‘three-crop rule’.

“In the arable east of England, the biggest concern without question is the three crop diversification element,” he told the CLA’s CAP Update Workshop at Earls Colne Golf Club on Monday.

“Many farmers, particularly those with contract farming agreements, will have to fundamentally reassess their business practice. Normally farmers block crop areas to farm in the most energy and cost efficient way.” New rules say those growing 30ha or more of arable must grow three plus crops.

They will also have to comply with the Ecological Focus Area criteria and put at least 5% of that arable area into specific environmental options.

“It’s unquestionably going to have a large impact, and we find it slightly ironic that this is a measure to improve the green credentials of farming. In many cases, say on a 40ha farm, being forced to grow a minimum of three crops seems arbitrary and entirely against the concept of greening because it will only increase greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mr Barker.

Strutt & Parker Farm Business Consultant Charles Ireland said the rule would ultimately affect the bottom line of farming businesses. He presented calculations that suggested a 300ha arable farm growing winter wheat and oilseed rape would lose £8,975 a year in annual profit, while a farm of the same size that specialised in high-value root crops would lose almost £34,000 a year.

David Wybar, head of rural business at Birkett Long Solicitors addressed the impact of the Young Farmer and Active Farmer rules of CAP and explained that the delay in finalising the small print of CAP reform means famers must set aside time in May/June for significant business planning.

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