Urgent negotiations are under way to get new crop protection management plans adopted as a way of earning Entry Level Scheme qualifying points.
Existing plans, first drawn up by the Voluntary Initiative five years ago, were excluded from new ELS agreements at the start of this year following an EU ruling.
The fear is that many farmers looking to renew their ELS agreements in 2010 will quit the scheme now such point-scoring opportunities have gone.
“We were disappointed when it was removed as a point-scoring option from the English Entry Level Scheme.” Natural England was very concerned too, he added.
Brussels had made it clear that any new proposal would have to be completely different from the existing CPMP. NFU and other VI members had already held discussions with the EU Commission, DEFRA and Natural England, and had put forward several “new and different” proposals.
Although unwilling to go into detail, NFU plant health adviser Paul Chambers said integrated crop management principles were not yet covered under the plan. “There might be some possibilities here,” he said.
Time was short, he acknowledged, as Natural England, then Brussels would have to approve any proposals. “We need to get something ready by the end of this year,” Mr Chambers said.
Mr Raymond urged farmers to continue using the CPMP and to return completed forms to the NFU, to show they were adopting best practice to help safeguard against the threat of ever-tightening legislation.
Although more than 4000 forms were completed last year, the area farmed under the plan still slipped to 1.3m ha, about 0.4m ha below target, largely because of exclusion from ELS.
A new, easier-to-complete plan based on tick-boxes was unveiled this week, designed to encourage a regular annual farm review, with a simpler version launched for livestock farmers who spray infrequently.
“This should ensure that the scheme reaches the 2009 target of 1.7m ha,” Mr Raymond said.
The new versions will be available from 1 September and will be available at www.cpmponline.com or as paper versions from the NFU on 0870 845 8458.