ARABLE FARMERS may be required to take up to a fifth of their land out of production in order to claim the new single farm payment.

The move is one of a number of proposed measures the government is considering to introduce to protect Britain‘s soils.

Others include incorporating 20t/ha of “bulky” organic matter, such as straw, and drilling to follow contour lines on slopes to reduce erosion.

These are included in Annex A of the cross-compliance consultation documents published recently by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

“Most farmers are aware of the countryside and biodiversity elements, which are mainly to do with maintaining existing features,” said a DEFRA spokesman.

“But soil management is a new element, and all EU countries are struggling to make it work in practice.

“This is one area where we expect most farmers will have to make some changes to their working practices.”

But the plans have provoked an angry response from growers.

“There are not many farmers who can afford to take their best land out of production for one year in every five,” said Lincolnshire grower and Farmers Weekly Farmer Focus writer Mark Ireland.

“There‘s a real danger we‘ll all be bound by Annex A unless we do something about it.”

More on cross-compliance, and the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GEAC) proposals can be found in the Arable section of FARMERS WEEKLY (Apr 30 issue).