Outdoor pig producers and those who let land to them urgently need answers about whether this type of land occupation will count towards meeting the three-crop rule under CAP reform.

This affects those who take ground on farm business tenancies or grazing licences for outdoor pigs. In some cases the agreements already in place will run on into the new regime starting on 1 January 2015.

Outdoor producers tend to specialise in pigs and those operating on farm business tenancies may face the challenge of finding additional land to meet the three-crop rule, said Nigel Penlington, environment programme manager at BPEX.

This would mean they would be forced to diversify their businesses to comply with the rule.

The issue is further complicated by the need to meet cross-compliance, nitrate vulnerable zone and environmental focus area requirements.

While the industry has often found ways of dealing with such challenges, including contract farming and share farming, the delay in clarifying the detail on the three-crop rule is causing anxiety for many.

“People have to be careful – it requires professional advice for both parties,” said Mr Penlington.

Outdoor pigs could count as fallow, which is in turn expected to qualify as a crop for three-crop rule purposes, but confirmation is needed on this.

The sector is already under pressure from the intensifying competition for land to grow feedstock crops for anaerobic digestion plants, especially in the east of England.