‘Greening rules clarity means farmers can plan 2021 harvest with confidence’

Farmers in England will no longer be required to comply with complex rules around crop diversification, Ecological Focus Areas and greening permanent grassland, after the government announced the removal of greening rules from the direct payments regime for 2021.

Also known as the ‘three-crop rule’, the requirements mean farms with more than 10ha of arable land have to grow at least two crops, while at least three crops required on farms with more than 30ha. The main crop may also not cover more than 75% of the land.

A derogation was made for farmers in England in March after months of relentless heavy rain, waterlogging and flooding of fields left them unable to plant and establish crops for 2020.

The change means 30% of the current overall BPS payment associated with these conditions will be reallocated to the BPS entitlements.

NFU vice-president 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.

“I am hopeful that the changes to greening rules will remove some of the complexities farmers face in interacting with multiple scheme rules.

“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 as we prepare for the introduction of a new domestic agricultural policy and Environmental Land Management Schemes. “