Greening: How complicated can it be?

27th February 2014

In our series covering Cap Reform, Claire Bainbridge, Director of Research for George F White discusses in further detail the known elements of ‘Greening’.

Greening: What’s this?

From next year we will receive the Basic Payment, of which 30% will be linked to carrying out 3 greening requirements. These are Maintaining Existing Permanent Grassland, Crop Diversification and Ecological Focus Areas.

Does it affect my farm?

Yes, it will affect anyone claiming the new Basic Payment Scheme, but to what level will depend on your farm type. If you have all permanent pasture and unlikely to ever have arable, you won’t be heavily affected. If you have an arable or mixed farm, it will definitely affect you.

Do I have to do it?

Yes, it is compulsory for all claimants of the Basic Payment Scheme, unless you fall into an exempt category, i.e. land under an organic certification scheme is exempt from the greening measures.

Why do I need to think about it now?

Arable, Mixed and Dairy farms will want to understand the potential implication on rotations with the Crop Diversification and whether they need to take land out of production to comply with the Ecological Focus Areas. Ecological Focus Area (EFA) measures will need to be in place from the 1st January 2015.

Maintaining Existing Permanent Grassland

What’s the difference between permanent pasture and permanent grassland? Very little when comparing the old and new scheme rules. Under the Single Payment Scheme permanent pasture was land that is used to grow grass or other herbaceous forage for 5 consecutive years. Under the Direct payment regulation that definition is much the same but now known as Permanent Grassland. Any grass or forage that has been in for less than 5 years is still classed as arable.

Why is it important that I understand this definition? It’s important to understand exactly what land on your holding is classed as permanent grassland and what’s’ classed as arable, as the ‘arable’ hectarage will be relevant for the other 2 greening requirements.

Can I plough permanent grassland out? The short answer is yes, however you will need to do an environmental impact assessment. If the national level of permanent grassland dips below the base level by more than 5 % farmers will be required to reconvert and arable land created. Some grassland will be designated as Environmentally Significant, and this can’t be ploughed out – this will include Natura 2000 sites and Special Areas of Conservation.

Ecological Focus Areas

When do I have to do this? By 1st January 2015 anyone farming over 15ha of arable land (and that includes fallow land and temporary grass) will need to have in place 5 % of their arable land as an Ecological Focus Area. The government has until 1st August to decide on what can count as EFA options. Farmers may want to have thought through now how to achieve the 5%. If you’re in a stewardship scheme, you won’t be able to use the same options twice, ie Grass margins, buffer strips etc

What are the options? Nitrogen fixing crops, Catch Crops and land lying fallow are all on the proposed list along with buffer strips, agro-forestry and landscape features, however until the government makes a decision we can only advise on the timings and the potential options.

I’ve heard that the government may choose to “Weight” the options? Yes, the government have the choice to weight the options. For example Nitrogen fixing crops may be given a weighting of 0.3. Therefore your 5% commitment of arable land to an EFA would increase to 16.67% if you only used a nitrogen fixing crop.

What should I watch out for? A clear understanding of what is ‘arable’ on your farm. If you plough out permanent grassland, or if temporary grassland reverts to being permanent the amount of land required to achieve the 5% will change, Likewise if you bought or rented more land, then the amount of land needed to achieve the 5% will increase.

It should also be noted that there is an expectation that in 2017 the 5% requirement will increase to 7%

Crop Diversification

I haven’t got much arable, will it affect me? Yes, it could. The areas are specific. If you have over 10ha of arable (that includes temporary grass and fallow) you will need 2 crops. If you have over 30ha of arable you will need 3 crops.

Can I plant a small area for my second or third crop? The main crop cannot cover more than 75% of the arable area, and where the requirement is for 3 crops the two main crops cannot cover more than 95% of the arable land.

Do Winter and Spring varieties count? Yes winter and spring varieties count as separate crops.

What should I watch out for? Livestock farmers who grow only oats for example for their own feed – depending on how many hectares are grown will dictate whether you need 2 or 3 crops.

Farmers or contractors block cropping will need to adjust rotations and those growing under contract may need to review those contracts – ie potato contracts, maize for AD plants.

This new scheme has a huge amount of detail to it and with further decisions and detail still emerging it is as ever important to take advice. Next in the series: Am I eligible to claim under the new scheme?

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