peas in field© Tim Scrivener

EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan is insisting his proposed ban on the use of pesticides on certain crops in ecological focus areas (EFAs) will go ahead.

The plans are contained in greening simplification measures, due to be signed off later this year, and would affect catch crops, cover crops and nitrogen-fixing crops.

See also: EU greening proposals will ‘make life harder not simpler’

Opposition to Mr Hogan’s ideas was voiced at Monday’s (10 October) meeting of EU farm ministers in Luxembourg, with 18 member states signing a petition claiming such a ban would undermine production.

Their call was supported by EU farmers’ group Copa, which said banning sprays in EFAs would add complexity, when the objective should be to simplify the scheme.

But environmentalists said allowing the continued use of sprays in these areas would limit the environmental benefit of CAP greening measures.

CAP greening a ‘failure’

“This demand on taxpayers to pay farmers to spray pesticides on these areas shows once more that the so-called ‘greening’ of the CAP has been a failure,” said a spokesman for the European Environmental Bureau.

These views appear to have resonated with Mr Hogan, who told farm ministers this week that the ban on spraying catch crops and nitrogen-fixing crops in EFAs should go ahead.

He also indicated that it should be policed by a combination of farmer declarations and on-the-spot checks.

But he did give ground in some other areas, including allowing a delay to the new rules until 2018, instead of the original intended start date of 2017.

He also agreed to keep the minimum duration for land to lie fallow at six months, instead of nine months.

A final decision on the greening simplification plan is expected by the end of this year, or early in 2017.