The European Commission is understood to have asked Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture for more information ahead of any decision on this year’s three-crop rule.

It had been reported elsewhere that a decision had been made not to grant a derogation to Northern Ireland; however, this claim has since been dismissed by department officials.

The regulation, which came into effect in January 2015 as part of the Basic Payment Scheme, requires farmers with more than 30ha of arable land to grow at least three different crops.

As part of the three-crop rule, the main crop cannot occupy more than 75% of the land and the two main crops combined cannot occupy any more than 95%.

The rule was designed to encourage better crop rotation; however, this year the wet weather has delayed ploughing and planting – meaning that many growers have already missed out on the opportunity to plant alternative crops.

3-crop rule in the south

Arable farmers in the Republic of Ireland are also expected to be granted a derogation on the rules this year.

Speaking to AgriLand recently, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, said: “I’ve spoken to the commissioner and what we have got effectively is a sign-off at a political level; the detail has to be worked through the commission.

“Time is critical for tillage farmers who need to get on with their business. I’m confident we can work through the detail. The signal is that the three-crop requirement for 2018 is no longer applicable.”

It takes the pressure off for those who are running out of options for a third crop as the planting season moves on.

It’s hoped a similar allowance will be made for farmers in Northern Ireland. However, a decision is yet to be made.

It comes just a week after DAERA announced it was backing calls for a derogation from the rules.

A decision for Northern Ireland is expected to be made in early May.