A field of sandy soil with a large crack© Eco Images/UIG/REX/Shutterstock

Defra has warned farmers who have been operating under transitional arrangements in nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs) to ensure they are aware of rules governing cross-compliance under the full scheme.

Defra made the warning in its updated Guide To Cross-Compliance in England 2018 because some NVZ boundaries were redrawn in 2017.

The newly designated areas meant a number of farms were included in a zone for the first time and were allowed to operate under lighter, transitional arrangements.

The updated guide said: “If your land was in an NVZ for the first time in 2017, transitional arrangements were in place allowing you to not meet the NVZ rules in 2017.”

But it pointed out that the arrangement would begin to change from 1 January 2018.

From this date the farms involved will have to meet all of the legal requirements of the NVZ laws, although many of the practical regulations will not be introduced until 31 July 2019.

Defra has encouraged any farmers affected to use the detailed guide to help them prepare for the changes over the next 12 months.

What is cross-compliance?

Cross-compliance rules apply to all BPS claimants. They are made up of 13 statutory management requirements (SMRs) and rules on seven Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC).

The SMRs include areas such as NVZs and animal identification measures while the GAEC cover aspects such as water protection, maintenance of public rights of way and soil management.

Any infringements – even when they are made by mistake – result in penalties applied by the Rural Payment Agency through farm support payments.

These can range from a 1% reduction in BPS for every area breached to 100% of the BPS withheld in severe, persistent, intentional failures.

See also: Know your key dates for cross-compliance 2018 

The guide, which covers all aspects of cross-compliance, also highlights changes to inspections for soil erosion and livestock identification.

It says that, while the rules has not changed, the way Rural Payment Agency inspectors check them will alter from 1 January 2018.

“These rules remain, but the RPA must check them differently,” the guide says.

For minimising soil erosion (GAEC 5) – during any inspection farmers must be able to show how they have put in place suitable practical measures to prevent soil and bankside erosion.

The second area singled out was sheep and cattle identification and registration.

In 2016 it was the main area for transgressions and more than 1,300 livestock farmers in England faced penalties under the rule.

The main failures were:

Cattle (SMR-7)

  • Movement details not recorded or incorrectly recorded on farm register/database
  • Passport not returned after death of animal
  • Failure to report movement

Sheep (SMR-8)

  • Sheep holding register out of date
  • Annual inventory not completed
  • Sheep and/or goats have never been tagged or are incorrectly tagged
  • Animals found on farm that are not recorded in the database

The cross-compliance guide stresses: “You must make sure that all your cattle and sheep are correctly identified, and that lost and damaged ear tags are replaced within the deadlines.

“You must also make sure that any cattle notifications you make to the British Cattle Movement Service are made within the deadlines.”

Further information

For NVZ queries, contact the Environment Agency about designation notices: 03708 506 506 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm), enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.

For all other cross-compliance queries, contact the Farming Advice Service: 03000 200 301 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm), advice@farmingadviceservice.org.uk

Read the Guide To Cross Compliance in England 2018 [PDF]