Following additional changes to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2018 greening rules, Alice De Soer from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) gives guidance on the new rules.
- EFA fallow can still be grazed or mowed after the EFA fallow period ends in England
- 30ha “arable” land limitation for the “greening” exemptions has been removed
- All fallow will convert to permanent grassland after five years
Why have there been more changes to the “greening” rules?
The Common Agricultural Policy “simplification” measures were confirmed last summer which introduced, among other elements, a ban on Plant Protection Products (PPPs) on EFA fallow, EFA nitrogen-fixing crops and EFA catch or cover crops from 2018.
However, since then, more greening rule changes were agreed late last year under new EU legislation, known as the Omnibus Regulation.
The rules apply across the UK but some are being implemented differently, so check the rules for where the land is located. The guidance below primarily focuses on how the rules apply in England.
When will updated guidance on these new “greening” rules be available?
The RPA will issue detailed guidance in the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2018 Scheme Rules which will be published on the government website before the BPS 2018 application window opens in March. The Welsh government and Scottish government should publish updated guidance soon.
What activities are allowed during the EFA fallow period?
In England, the EFA fallow period started on 1 January and ends on 30 June (Wales: 1 February to 31 July; Scotland: 15 January to 15 July, inclusive).
During this period, the land must be managed so it meets rules.
However, there are three changes in England for 2018 which mean that during the EFA fallow period the land cannot be cultivated for weed control, grass may only be sown if it’s a specific requirement under a Rural Development scheme and no manure or fertiliser may be applied.
Are activities restricted after the EFA fallow period ends?
While grazing and mowing of fallow land with a grass cover isn’t permitted during the EFA fallow period, there was a concern that farmers in England wouldn’t be allowed to graze or mow the land after the EFA fallow period ends on 30 June 2018.
However, Defra is allowing these activities to continue in England, so the land can be grazed or mowed (except wild bird seed mixes).
In contrast, farmers in Wales aren’t allowed to graze or mow fallow land after the fallow period has closed – this applies to all fallow land, not just EFA fallow. No further restrictions have been announced for Scotland as yet.
Will land declared as EFA fallow convert to permanent grassland after five years?
EFA fallow can only be located on “arable” land, including temporary grassland.
There used to be no restriction on the number of years land declared as EFA fallow could remain temporary grassland, it didn’t convert to permanent grassland after five years in the usual way.
This has changed from 2018 meaning land declared as fallow for five years or more will convert to permanent grassland. The earliest this will happen is 2023.
How should EFA fallow next to an EFA buffer strip/field margin be managed?
An EFA buffer strip/field margin must be at least 1m wide but if there’s a temporary grassland strip that’s wider, the additional area can be used as EFA fallow provided it meets the requirements.
The two areas must be visually different during the EFA fallow period, meaning one of the following three requirements must be met: there’s different vegetation; the vegetation on the EFA fallow is a different height to that on the EFA buffer strip/margin; or, the land management on each differs.
From 2018, the RPA will be increasingly reliant on physical inspections to check it’s possible to see a difference between the two areas.
What is 1ha of EFA nitrogen-fixing crops worth for EFA?
The multiplier for EFA nitrogen-fixing crops has changed from 0.7 to 1, so 1ha is worth the EFA equivalent of 1ha.
In practical terms, this may have little consequence as the introduction of the PPP ban for EFA nitrogen-fixing crops is likely to make uptake of this option seem unattractive.
What changes are there to the “greening” exemptions?
If a BPS claimant has more than 75% eligible agricultural land in permanent or temporary grassland or more than 75% of the arable land is fallow or temporary grassland, the “greening” exemption (for EFA and crop diversification) only applied if the rest of the arable area wasn’t more than 30ha. That 30ha limitation has been removed.