New regulationsthat give farmers flexibility over how they implement EU rules have beenannounced today by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
Under new EU regulations, known as greening,farmers must ensure 5 per cent of their land is set-aside as an EcologicalFocus Area (EFA), instead of being used for farming.
To ensure that farmers are able to continue theiressential work of growing food, improving the environment and boosting therural economy, Defra has chosen a package of options which give farmersflexibility over how they comply with the rules.
Farmers will be able to choose how to meet the EFA requirementfrom a list which includes land lying fallow, buffer strips, catch and covercrops used to manage soil fertility and quality, Nitrogen Fixing Crops such aslegumes and hedgerows.
To receive CAP payments, farmers alsohave to adhere to cross compliance environmental regulations. To reduce theburden on farmers, Defra has cut these measures from 17 to 11.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
We want farmers tobe free to do what they do best: producing food and helping to grow theeconomy. I have said all along the EUs CAP reform is disappointing,but we have worked hard to remove the worst aspects and to make these new rulesas easy as possible and given flexibility on how they are implemented, as wellas reducing the burden of regulations.
We have allocated 3.5 billion to rural developmentschemes, which we believe is a much better way of improving the environment andgrowing the rural economy.
To ensure that the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) canprocess all claims accurately, farmers taking the hedgerow option may berequested to submit claims earlier and may need to expect payments later. Thisis because hedgerows will need to be digitally recorded and verified by the RPA tomeet EU requirements and avoid the risk of penalties for farmers or thetaxpayer.
Farmers are required to implement greeningmeasures by EU rules, or they will lose up to 30% of their Basic Payment Schemepayment. The greening rules cover three areas crop diversification,Ecological Focus Areas, and measures to maintain permanent grassland.
Defra argued against greening requirements formingpart of the Basic Payment Scheme, known as pillar one of the CAP, duringEU negotiations. This is because we believe environmental benefits are betterdelivered through the Rural Development Programme, known as pillar two of the CAP.
Defra has transferred a greater proportion of ouroverall 15 billion CAPbudget into pillar 2, which will mean 3.5 billionwill be available for schemes to improve the environment and grow the ruraleconomy.