Farmers who refuse to adopt “green” measures planned by Brussels will lose far more than the expected 30% of their annual subsidy cheque, it has emerged.

Proposals unveiled this week suggested 30% of direct payments would depend on farmers respecting certain agricultural practices.

But Brussels has since confirmed that the penalty could be far higher.

Environmental practices expected of farmers include maintaining permanent pasture and cultivating at least three different crops on arable land.

To receive 100% of their direct payment, farmers would also have to maintain an “ecological focus area” covering at least 7% of their land.

Eligible areas contributing to this 7% include field margins, buffer strips, hedges, trees, fallow land, approved landscapes and beneficial water features.

Farmers who repeatedly refuse to implement these environmental measures would lose much more than 30% of their direct payment.

A commission spokesman told Farmers Weekly the intention was that all farmers should participate in the greening scheme.

Precise rules governing the scheme would be clarified once EU member states had reached a political agreement, said the spokesman.

But he added: “The idea is that the penalty should be proportionate.”

Farmers who ignored the greening requirements completely would therefore face stiffer penalties than those who narrowly missed the 7% target.

“If this is repeated again and again, then the amount of [the] remaining payment that he loses will increase.

“But if a farmer simply ignores the greening requirements, he will be penalised more severely and more quickly.”

The NFU believes this effectively leaves farmers no option but to adopt the environmental measures or face losing 100% of their direct payment.

A farmer who deliberately ignored the greening requirements could leave himself open to accusations of intentional non-compliance, suggested the union.

“He could forego more than just the additional aid and face penalties of up to 100% on his direct payment.”

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