Growers in Scotland have been granted a derogation to the crop diversification requirement of the Basic Payment Scheme for 2020.

Commenting on his decision, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Following the exceptional wet weather in the autumn and its continuation into this year, I am aware that farmers and crofters across the length and breadth of Scotland are at risk of not meeting their crop diversification requirements.

Feedback from industry has highlighted the struggle, and in some cases inability, to establish areas of winter crops as part of their preparations for this year, and the failure of crops that were established due to the on-going wet weather.

“This combination has immediately reduced options available to many farmers to meet the three-crop rule.

“Given this, it is clear that farmers and crofters will require a period of continuous dry weather to allow flooding to dissipate and to allow spring planting to move forward.

“As such, I can confirm that I have agreed to a one-season derogation from the three crop rule. I believe this is a sensible approach, which will provide some much-needed relief to farmers and crofters across Scotland.”

Willie Thomson, NFU Scotland combinable crops chairman, said: “The prolonged period of cold, wet conditions has meant the window of opportunity to plant and establish crops for 2020 has been narrow and meeting the three-crop rule for many farmers has been almost impossible.

The derogation from the three-crop requirement will make a difference to growers who have been unable to get onto waterlogged ground, but it is already looking for some parts of the country that fallow may be a more economic option than planting.

‘Unfit for purpose’

NFU Scotland has consistently opposed the need for the three-crop rule to apply in Scotland.

In a statement, NFUS said: “The EU’s blunt Greening rules do not fit the profile of Scottish agriculture and so offer little by way of environmental gain but have added significant cost to many Scottish agricultural businesses and to Scottish Government in terms of inspections and compliance complexities.”

The union proposes the removal of the Crop Diversification and Permanent Grassland requirements from the current Greening rules from 2021.

The union argues there is no monoculture issue to be addressed by the Crop Diversification rules in Scotland and the abundance of permanent grassland at a national level renders that Greening requirement completely unfit for purpose.

It adds that required ‘green’ outcomes – notably on climate change and biodiversity – need to work within agricultural systems rather than prescriptive dates that compromise food production but do little or nothing in terms of environmental benefits.