Farming opinion: CAP greening & cross compliance

James Durrant, rural surveyor at Clarke and Simpson

James Durrant, rural surveyor at Clarke and Simpson - Credit: Archant

James Durrant, rural surveyor at Clarke and Simpson, provides an update on Common Agricultural Policy reform.

There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the implementation of the new Basic Payment Scheme, but on June 10, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, gave a greatly anticipated insight into the new scheme. His announcement was twofold, addressing Greening and Cross Compliance.

Part of the requirement under the Greening regulation is for farmers of over 15 hectares to have 5% of arable land down to Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). Of the large number of EFAs Member States have to choose from, Mr Paterson has selected five for English farmers: land lying fallow, buffer strips, catch and cover crops, nitrogen fixing crops and hedgerows.

This is not as onerous as first appears; the maximum use of weightings and coefficients allowed by the EU regulation however means that a 100 hectare farm may not have to have five hectares down to EFAs. For example, every 1m of hedge managed in accordance with the scheme will count as 10m2 towards the 5%, and every 1m of buffer strip will count as 9m2.

There have been some concerns raised over double-funding in relation to the Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) scheme, and any agreements entered into after January 1, 2012 will have their payments reduced or the option to leave the scheme without penalty. It is important to note that the Greening element of the payment is compulsory and not optional as some first thought and there will be financial penalties for non-compliance.

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Given DEFRA’s ability to often over-complicate, it was refreshing to learn that Cross Compliance will be rationalised. Mr Paterson stated that he was “determined to ease the burden of regulation on farm business, whilst maintaining the environmental protection”. The number of requirements relating to keeping land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAECs) would be reduced, some Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) will be deleted and the requirement for farmers to keep a Soil Protection Review will be abolished. In addition, the penalty system for non-compliance will be reviewed. In the same breath, it was announced that the hedge cutting ban would be extended to run until the end of August in any year. We await further announcements on the administration and finer detail of the new scheme.

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