Guide to 2020 farming cross-compliance dates

Defra and the agricultural departments of the devolved administrations have released the key dates in 2020 to help farmers avoid breaching cross-compliance rules.

The rules apply to all Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claimants and are made up of statutory management requirements (SMRs) and standards for Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs).

Any breaches – even mistakes – result in penalties applied to farm support payments.

See also: 10 most common cross-compliance breaches and how to avoid them

These are imposed by the Rural Payments Agency and range from a 1% reduction in BPS for every area breached, to 100% of the BPS in cases of severe, persistent and intentional failures.

To reduce the chance of making a mistake, it is vital to know the dates and timings for key tasks that can lead to cross-compliance infringements.

This is a guide to the key dates and any regional variations.

It should be cross-referenced with the relevant published data using the online links in the “More information” box (below).

January

All regions

  • 1 Jan – Rules in the 2020 Cross Compliance Guide must be followed from this date.

England

  • 1 Jan – Organic manures with a high readily available nitrogen content such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge, can be applied to grassland and tillage land on shallow or sandy soils under suitable conditions. Note: Quantity restrictions must be met (SMR 1).
  • 1 Jan – Start date for assessing the annual amount of livestock manure applied (SMR 1).
  • 16 Jan – Manufactured nitrogen fertilisers can be applied to grassland and tillage land in suitable conditions (SMR 1).

Scotland

  • 31 Jan – End of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land for all soil types (other than sandy or shallow) (SMR 1).

Wales

  • 15 Jan – Manufactured nitrogen fertilisers can be applied to grassland and tillage land on all soils after this date if conditions are suitable (SMR 1).
  • 31 Jan – Manure with a high readily available nitrogen content (for example, slurry and poultry manures) can be applied to grassland and tillage land on all soils after this date if conditions are suitable and you adhere to the quantity restrictions for application of these manures.

Northern Ireland

  • 15 Jan – Ploughing can be carried out without restriction from this date (see GAEC 4).

February

England

  • 1 Feb – Organic manures such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge can be applied to grassland and tillage land on all soil types under suitable conditions. Note: Quantity restrictions must be met (SMR 1).
  • 29 Feb – End of quantity restrictions for organic manure – slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge (SMR 1).

Scotland

  • 15 Feb – End of the closed period for the application of chemical/manufactured fertiliser on all land in the Lower Nithsdale, Lothian and Borders, Strathmore and Fife (including Finavon) and Stranraer Lowlands NVZ areas (SMR 1).
  • 20 Feb – End of the closed period for the application of chemical/manufactured fertiliser on all land in the Moray, Aberdeenshire, Banff and Buchan NVZ area (SMR 1).

Northern Ireland

  • 1 Feb – Chemical fertiliser may be applied providing environmental conditions are suitable (SMR 1).
  • 1 Feb – Organic manures, including slurry, poultry litter, sewage, sludge and abattoir waste may be applied providing environmental conditions are suitable with wider waterway/lake buffers to the end of February ( SMR 1).

March

All regions

  • 1 Mar – Cutting or trimming hedges or trees is prohibited.
  • 1 Mar – Hedge and tree coppicing and hedge laying can continue from this date until 30 April (GAEC 7a and 7c).
  • 31 Mar – Water abstraction licence holders should expect annual bills or first-part charge if two-part tariff agreements are held (GAEC 2).

Scotland

  • 1 Mar – Start of the ban on removing/burning scrub and gorse (SMR 2).
  • 1 Mar – Deadline for preparing and implementing a fertiliser and manure management plan (SMR 1).
  • 1 Mar – Hedge laying can continue from this date until 31 March (SMR 2, GAEC 7).

Wales

  • 1 Mar – End of five-month storage period for all the slurry of livestock, other than pigs and poultry (SMR 1).
  • 1 Mar – Maintain minimum soil cover following harvest until this date (GAEC 4).
  • 15 Mar – Ban begins on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium other than in upland areas (GAEC 6).
  • 31 Mar – Upland area ban on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium begins (GAEC 6)
  • 31 Mar – Ban on carrying out any hedge-laying or coppicing starts unless with permission from the Welsh government for education or training purposes (GAEC 7).

Northern Ireland

  • 1 Mar – Final date for online submission of Nitrates derogation application (see SMR 1).
  • 1 Mar – Final date for online submission of fertilisation account for the previous calendar year (if the farm has an approved nitrates derogation) (see SMR 1).
  • 1 Mar – Fertilisation plan for the current calendar year to be ready and available for inspection (see SMR 1).

April

England

  • 1 Apr – Ban begins on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium other than in upland areas (GAEC 6).
  • 1 Apr – 28-day window opens for winter or year-round water abstraction licence holders (authorising abstraction outside the period April to October) to submit readings to Environment Agency (GAEC 2).
  • 16 Apr – Upland area ban begins on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium (GAEC 6).
  • 30 Apr – “Specified” livestock numbers kept on individual farms during the previous calendar year must be recorded along with the calculated amount of nitrogen they produced. The number and type of livestock in a building or hardstanding during the previous storage period must also be recorded (SMR 1).

Scotland

  • 1 Apr – Start of the ban on hedge laying (SMR 2, GAEC 7).
  • 15 Apr – End of the standard muirburn season (SMR 2).

Wales

  • 1 Apr – End of six-month storage period for pig and poultry slurry.
  • 30 Apr – Livestock numbers kept on individual farms during the previous calendar year must be recorded along with the calculated amount of nitrogen they produced. The number and type of livestock in a building or hardstanding during the previous storage period must also be recorded (SMR 1).

Northern Ireland

  • 15 Apr – Ban on burning heather, gorse, whin or fern applies starts (GAEC 5).

May

England

  • 1 May – Ban begins on hedge or tree coppicing and hedge laying (GAEC7a and 7c).

June

Northern Ireland

  • 15 Jun – For derogated farms only: at least 50% of slurry produced on the holding must be applied by 15 June and slurry must be applied using Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE).
  • 30 Jun – Nitrates record for previous calendar year must be available for inspection (SMR 1).

August

England

  • 1 Aug – Rural Payments Agency derogations begin for cutting or trimming hedges throughout August, to sow oilseed rape or temporary grassland (GAEC 7a).
  • 1 Aug – Closed period begins on applications of organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to tillage land on shallow or sandy soils, except where crops will be sown on or before 15 September (SMR 1).

Scotland

  • 1 Aug – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land (other than grassland) where the soil type is sandy or shallow (SMR 1).
  • 1 Aug – Cutting or trimming hedges/trees is allowed to sow oilseed rape or grass or another crop (subject to written consent from RPD) (SMR 2, GAEC 7).

Wales

  • 1 Aug – Start of closed period for applying organic manure with a high readily available nitrogen content to tillage land on shallow or sandy soils (application is allowed between 1 August and 15 September as long as a crop is sown on or before 15 September).
  • 1 Aug – Hedges or trees may be trimmed on arable land where the normal agricultural practice requires a winter arable crops to be planted before 31 August, so long as nesting birds are not disturbed (GAEC 7).
  • 31 Aug – Hedges and trees can be trimmed after this date (GAEC 7).

Northern Ireland

  • 31 Aug – Heather, gorse, whin or fern burning can begin from this date (GAEC 5).

September

England

  • 1 Sep – Ban ends on hedgecutting or trimming (GAEC 7a and 7c).
  • 1 Sep – Start of closed period for applications of organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to grassland on shallow or sandy soils (SMR 1).
  • 1 Sep – Start of closed period for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to tillage land (SMR 1).
  • 15 Sep – Start of closed period for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to grassland (SMR 1).
  • 16 Sep – Start of closed period for applying organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to tillage land on shallow or sandy soils that has been sown with crops on or before 15 September (SMR 1).

Scotland

  • 1 Sep – Start of the closed period for the application of “chemical/manufactured fertiliser” on all land (other than grassland) (SMR 1).
  • 1 Sep – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on grassland where the soil type is sandy or shallow (SMR 1).
  • 1 Sep – End of the ban on cutting or trimming hedges/trees (SMR 2, GAEC 7).
  • 1 Sep – End of the ban on removing/burning scrub and gorse (SMR 2).
  • 15 Sep – Start of the closed period for the application of chemical/manufactured fertiliser on grassland (SMR 1).

Wales

  • 1 Sep – Start of closed period for application of organic manure with a highly readily nitrogen content to grassland on shallow or sandy soils, and for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to tillage land (SMR 1).
  • 15 Sep – Start of closed period for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to grassland (SMR 1).

Northern Ireland

  • 1 Sep – End of closed period for hedge, tree and scrub cutting (GAEC 7).
  • 15 Sep (midnight) – Closed period for chemical fertiliser application starts (SMR 1).
  • 30 Sep – Buffer zones for slurry are increased to 15m from a waterway and 30m from a lake (see SMR 1 and GAEC 1).

October

England

  • 1 Oct – Ban lifted on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium on land in upland areas (GAEC 6).
  • 1 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to tillage land on heavier soils – not sandy or shallow (SMR 1).
  • 15 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to grassland on deeper and heavier soils (SMR 1).
  • 31 Oct – 28-day window open for readings to be sent to the Environment Agency by holders of summer water abstraction licences (authorising abstraction wholly within the months of April to October) (GAEC 2).

Scotland

  • 1 Oct – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land (other than grassland) for all soil types (other than sandy or shallow) (SMR 1).
  • 1 Oct – Start of the standard muirburn season (SMR 2).
  • 15 Oct – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on grassland for all soil types (other than sandy or shallow) (SMR 1).

Wales

  • 1 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure with a highly readily available nitrogen content to tillage land on heavier soils (SMR 1).
  • 1 Oct – Start of six-month storage period for all slurry types.
  • 1 Oct – Burning heather, rough grass, vaccinium or gorse is permitted on upland areas from this date (GAEC 6).
  • 15 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure with a highly readily available nitrogen content to grassland on heavier soils.

Northern Ireland

  • 15 Oct (midnight) – Closed period for application of organic manures, including slurry, poultry litter, sewage, sludge and abattoir waste begins (SMR 1).
  • 31 Oct (midnight) – Closed period for application of farmyard manure begins (SMR1).

November

England

  • 1 Nov – Ban ends on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium in all areas (GAEC 6).
  • 30 Nov – Two-part tariff agreement holders for water abstraction licences should expect to receive the second-part charge (GAEC 2).

Wales

  • 1 Nov – Restrictions end on burning heather, rough grass, bracken gorse or vaccinium on all land types (GAEC 6).

December

All regions

  • 1 Dec – Annual inventory of sheep and goats must be completed (SMR 8).

Scotland

  • 31 Dec – Deadline for submitting abstraction data returns to SEPA (GAEC 2).
  • 31 Dec – End of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land where the soil types are sandy or shallow (SMR 1).

Wales

  • 31 Dec – Organic manure with a highly-readily available nitrogen content can be applied to grassland and tillage ground with sandy and shallow soils (SMR 1).

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