Farmers have today learned that plantingnitrogen fixing crops such as peas and beans will count towards their greeningmeasures under the new Common Agriculture Policy rules, reports the NFU,something long-argued for by the organisation, it says.
Defra has released further details on howCAP will be implemented from 2015, including an announcement that limitedlandscape features will count towards the five per cent of the newenvironmental Ecological Focus Areas required under the new CAP rules byfarmers in 2015.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said at a timewhen farmers and growers were doing all they could to meet the increased foodproduction challenge ahead, as well as minimise their impact on theenvironment, sensible decisions on land use were crucial.
NFU members have been awaiting thesecritical announcements so they can plan for next year and while many will be disappointedthat all landscape features wont count from year one of the new CAP, therewill be some relief that nitrogen fixing crops such as peas and beans willcount, he said.
We have pressed hard on this and I ampleased to see that the Secretary of State Owen Paterson and his ministers havealso made an important and pragmatic decision to include hedges in the range ofoptions farmers can use to meet their Ecological Focus Area requirements in2015 and not face restrictions on inputs. We have long-argued it is critical tohave hedges included after years of counting towards agri-environmentschemes, it would have been a real own-goal if they didnt feature towards thenew EFAs.
Todays news means more choice for farmers,less land taken out of food production as well as achieving a clear positivebenefit for the environment.
However, this is year one. For NFU members, our workon this continues as I know some will be bitterly disappointed that we haventgot wider landscape features from 2015; for some, I believe that complianceunder the new CAP will mean taking land out of production. Thats bad news forfarmers, for the agri-food sector and for the UK economy. We already know thatthere will be a review of EFAs, but there also needs to be a review of cropdiversification at the earliest opportunity and thats something the NFU willcontinue to push for.
I expect to see a wider array of landscape featureson offer from 2016 onwards more landscape features must be phased in and EFAsmust recognise the landscape features that farmers already have. Thatscritical. We never wanted to see land taken out of production by this CAP dealand, lets be clear, I dont think anyones happy with the outcome. In themeantime, it is important that farmers who use hedges to meet their greeningobligation in 2015 understand that they face higher risks of inspection,delayed payment and possible penalties
We understand the RPA is now commissioning work todigitise hedgerows to the required Commission standard. I’m urging Ministersthat RPA complete this mapping work as swiftly as possible. But I dont wantthe mapping to stop with hedges; we need all landscape features to be availableto farmers. This needs the Commission’s approval, and the NFU will work withDefra in Brussels to achieve this outcome.
Likemany paying agencies and administrations in member states, Defra and the RPAface challenges in how they implement this latest reform. The blame on thislies firmly with the Commission. Theyve developed a CAP package which has hugepractical hurdles for all concerned in agriculture. Its not the promisedsimplification; policy measures distort farmers commercial decisions and dolittle to help us gear-up to the long-term food production and environmentalchallenges which we know are ahead.