Arable

Three-crop rule 'significant burden', says CLA

Thursday 28 November 2013 10:27

The CLA has disputed government claims that most farmers will not have to change their farming practices to comply with new CAP greening measures, including crop diversification.

A DEFRA evidence plan accompanying the CAP consultation says that only about 7% of farms may need to change their practices to comply with the crop diversification three-crop rule.

Farm minister George Eustice claimed the “overwhelming majority” of farmers – the remaining 93% – will be satisfied with the changes , because of the way they farm their land now.

Other recent assessments from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have concluded up to 16% of farms will be affected.

However, in its response to DEFRA’s Consultation on Implementation of CAP Reform in England, the CLA warned the government that the crop diversification measure “will place a significant burden on farming practices”.

CLA agricultural adviser Ed Barker said anecdotal evidence suggests that even more farms – about one-third – will be affected in some way by the crop diversification rules.

“We have spoken to members up and down the country and the feedback has been that many more will be affected by this measure than the quoted 7%,” said Mr Barker.

“While many members have told us they currently grow three or more crops, in many cases they will have to amend the proportions of those crops, or make changes to future cropping plans.

“We think that two broad types of farm or enterprises will be hit in particular: those with just over 30ha of arable land who must now grow three crops where it is not practical to do so, and contractors who are using efficient farming practices, with a large number of clients.”

Many livestock producers who grow crops for feed purposes as a result of escalating input costs, allowing them to build in a degree of resilience to their business, will also be forced to make changes to their cropping decisions, he added.

Mr Barker said the CLA believes crop diversification will increase the carbon footprint of farms, have a negative impact on the environment and will contradict DEFRA’s aim to reduce red tape.

CLA president Henry Robinson said the government must bear in mind its commitment to cutting red tape in the incoming raft of CAP regulations – and focus on giving farmers and land managers workable rules.

“The government needs to remember the recommendations of the MacDonald report and discard needless bureaucracy,” he added.

While accepting the concept of moving money from Pillar 1 (direct payments) to Pillar 2 (rural development schemes), the CLA has called for this to take place at 9% pending a review in 2017.

“This would give DEFRA the chance to assess the effectiveness of the first three years of the new Rural Development Programme before it needs to make a decision on its future,” said Mr Robinson.

“We do not believe DEFRA’s preferred rate of 15%, which is the maximum possible, is right at present. The 9% level would be right for an increased focus on farming and forestry competitiveness and the EU growth programme, creating more jobs in the countryside.”

DEFRA’s public consultation on CAP funding in England closes at 11.45pm tonight (Thursday 28 November).

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