The Scottish government has been accused of imposing “complex and impractical” CAP greening rules on growers who plan to use nitrogen-fixing crops to meet their ecological focus area (EFA) obligations.
NFU Scotland’s combinable crops chairman Andrew Moir led a delegation of growers to tackle the Scottish government’s rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead over his greening plans. During a “tense and frank” meeting on 2 October, the delegates told Mr Lochhead that without changes to the strict rules imposed by the Scottish government, growers would be “extremely unlikely” to take up the nitrogen-fixing crop option.
“In addition, the impractical rules around measuring field margins and buffer strips make these a legislative nightmare for both farmers and inspectors,” Mr Moir said.
“Such options are so full of risk for individual farmers that they are left with little choice to comply with EFA requirements other than leaving land fallow. At Scottish government’s insistence, we will be forced back into set-aside and establishing blocks of non-productive land that contribute little to environmental targets. That is a lose-lose scenario.”
Mr Moir emphasised that grower frustration with Mr Lochhead and his staff’s approach to greening was made clear at the meeting.
“I believe the delegation of hard-working arable farmers left the Scottish government under no illusion that the greening measures proposed for Scotland will be so impractical as to render both environmental or productive benefits from greening almost impossible to achieve,” he said.
Mr Lochhead said after the meeting that he would “reflect” with his officials on what they could do to make the planning and compliance rules work better for farmers while maintaining the government’s commitment to deliver a greener CAP.
The Scottish government has stated that only 26% of businesses in Scotland need to comply with the EFA requirements and of those 11% grow nitrogen-fixing crops.