The new basic payment regime may not come in until 2015 but cropping decisions taken in the next few months could have a big impact on payments in the future.

“The current round of CAP reform has introduced several new elements including ‘greening’ and this will be compulsory for all basic payment claimants,” said Berrys associate partner Sarah Reece.

“The greening payment will be 30% of the Pillar 1 [direct payments] and can only be claimed in full if three ‘greening’ measures are met – permanent grassland, crop diversification and Ecological Focus Areas.”

The penalties for not meeting greening would be severe, she added.Those not meeting greening in 2015-16 you would lose 100% of the greening payment, ie, 30% of the direct payment. In 2017 the maximum penalty would be 120% of greening rising to 125% in 2018.

“It seems that with these penalties under the revised CAP, not going green is not an option,” she said.

Mrs Berry admitted that while there was a political deal, it was likely to be spring 2014 before the level of detail was available that confirmed what was happening.

But she warned: “What you drill next autumn will be critical if you want to claim all your direct payment. The point is that decisions on the farm rotation taken now are important as seed ordered in spring 2014 will be the crop that appears on the 2015 claim form so farmers will need to think ahead to ensure they can meet the requirements of greening.”

There are three default greening requirements:

Permanent grassland

 This is defined as land that has been five or more years out of arable rotation and this area must not fall by more than 5% of the 2012 reference area.

 Permanent grassland includes grassland that has been reseeded again to grass.

Crop diversification

 Both crop diversification and EFA are focused on arable land. Crop diversification is not required on areas of 10ha (24.71 acres) or less of arable land

 Arable land 10ha (24.71 acres) up to 30ha (74.13 acres) must include at least two different crops and arable land above 30ha (74.13 acres) must have at least three crops. The main crop must be no more than 75% of the area.

 Winter and spring varieties appear to count as different crops.

“We are still awaiting the definition of ‘arable land’ and we think it will include temporary grass although this isn’t clear,” said Mrs Berry,

The crop diversification greening measure could present a problem for dairy farmers with just grass and maize, she added.

“A lot of the grass will be temporary leys and may be classified as arable so these farmers may need to grow a third crop in addition to the grass and maize in order to meet the three-crop rule,” she said. “Arable farmers who block crop will also have to re-think cropping plans.”

There are a couple of crop diversification exemptions:

1. Where the arable area is less than 30ha (74.13 acres) but more than 75% of your eligible agricultural land is permanent grass

2. Farms where more than 50% of arable land was not on the previous year’s claim form..

Ecological Focus Area (EFA)

 EFA is not required on arable land under 15ha (37.06 acres)

 Arable land 15 ha (37.06 acres) and above must include 5% of the arable area managed as an EFA. This could rise to 7% in 2017

 The EFA must be located on the arable area or adjacent to it

 An EFA can be fallow land, landscape features, buffer strips, agro forestry, forested land, strips of eligible hectares along forest edges, catch crops, nitrogen-fixing crops among others

 A weighting matrix is proposed with hedges given a higher value than, say, fallow land

EFA exemptions:

1. If 75% of eligible agricultural area is permanent grassland

2. If more than 75% of arable area is used for production of grasses, leguminous crops or is fallow

Mrs Berry said DEFRA was looking at alternatives to these greening requirements to measure steps some farmers are already taking to protect the environment.

Organic farming was already exempt from greening and there could be a national certification greening equivalency for farmers already providing environmental benefits.

But dual funding is not allowed so it seems farmers would not be able to claim payment under ELS if using the same environmental benefits to claim greening payments.

“We are still waiting the full details and legislation for the new scheme and the details may change but farmers need to be mindful of the political deal as the implementation of this is fast approaching.”

 For further advice contact Sarah Reece at Berrys on 01743 267068 email sarah.reece@berrybros.com

More on this issue

CAP reform