1 August 1997

Set-aside rules eased to widen farm choice

MORE flexibility is being introduced to set-aside rules, giving farmers a wider choice of land they can take out of production.

Regulations say that land may only be used for set-aside if it was also set-aside last year, or "was cultivated with a view to harvest".

The definition of "harvest" has now been widened. "Farmers will be pleased to know that land used to grow any crops which are harvested by being picked, pulled, dug up or cut (for example, multi-annual crops and root stocks) and removed from the field, is now eligible to precede set-aside," says MAFF head of cereals, Roy Hathaway, in a letter to the NFU.

Cases where area aid claims have been previously disallowed due to the old rules may also be reconsidered.

New rules are also being introduced for non-food crops grown on set-aside land. These include:

&#8226 An end to the requirement that contracts be signed before sowing.

&#8226 The crop variety and details of the parcel on which the crop is to be sown will no longer need to be stated on contracts.

But in addition to the requirement that all the harvested crop be delivered, growers will now have to meet a minimum "representative yield" which will be fixed by MAFF before harvest. "In the UK this will only affect rapeseed,"says Mr Hathaway.

(other than HEAR varieties). And in exceptional and duly justified cases, a shortfall of up to 10% of the representative yield may be permitted," says Mr Hathaway.

The NFU has welcomed the changes. "Anything that increases flexibility and that accounts for the practical nature of farming is a plus," said cereals adviser, Phil Hudson.