News that the European Union is to ban the use of plant protection products (PPPs) on protein crops grown in ecological focus areas (EFAs) has been widely condemned by farmers on Twitter.
In order to maximise their basic farm payments, farmers are obliged to keep at least 5% of their claimed areas as EFAs.
They have a number of options as to what they can do on this land – including leaving it fallow, maintaining buffer strips, growing nitrogen-fixing crops and planting hedges.
Many have elected to grow peas and beans, seeing this as the most commercially viable option, while also fitting in with the arable rotation and helping to improve the soil.
But the commission is keen to see a wider range of environmental options adopted so, as part of a so-called “simplification” package, has sought to ban the use of PPPs on protein crops in EFAs.
The decision is expected to apply for 2018 BPS claims onwards.
Commenting on Twitter, farmer David Hinchcliffe said the move would undermine EU protein crop production, resulting in even more imports from other parts of the world.
— David Hinchliffe (@dnhinchliffe1) June 15, 2017
Pulse grower Peter Smith and Irish seeds manager Donal Fitzgerald also questioned the sustainability of the new policy on EFAs.
— Donal Fitzgerald (@DonieFitz) June 16, 2017
Nuffield scholar Thomas Bradshaw also predicted a fall in the sown area, while Cambridgeshire farmer David Walston said that legumes should be grown on their own merit.
Did you not used to say legumes should be grown on their own merit, rather than relying on EFAs? Or am I misremembering?
— David Walston (@OOOfarmer) June 15, 2017
Not everyone was so aggrieved, however, with rural action group Arc welcoming the development
— ARC 2020 (@ARC2020eu) June 15, 2017