Bad weather means farmers should review three-crop options

Farmers worried about meeting the three-crop rule because of impossible drilling conditions are being encouraged to consider their options if they want to safeguard the greening element of their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money.

Defra has yet to agree to any relaxation of the crop diversification rules for 2020, although the NFU is continuing to push for a derogation following the dismally wet autumn and winter.

Meeting the three-crop rule is important, as the greening element of BPS accounts for about 30% of its total value.

See also: Which rules are relaxed when farmland is flooded

Defra has recently published new guidance reminding farmers of their options if they continue to struggle to get crops in the ground because of extreme weather.

It also suggests that farmers start collecting evidence that will be helpful if they need to put in a request for a force majeure exemption as a last resort.

Current exemptions

If the area in fallow, temporary grass and leguminous crops together makes up more than 75% of the arable land, growers are exempt from the three-crop rule.

A further exemption may apply if more than 75% of all the agricultural area (all of the claimed land apart from woodland and ineligible areas) is permanent or temporary grassland.

Other guidance includes:

  • Land left uncropped can be managed to count as fallow for crop diversification requirements. Fallow and temporary grass each count as arable crops to meet the crop diversification rules.
  • Spring cropping can be used to help meet crop diversification rules, as spring and winter varieties count as different crops independent of their sowing date.
  • Failed crops can count as the crop originally established, or be managed to count as fallow land. However, supporting evidence such as seed invoices and delivery notes, crop records and photographs will be required if it is no longer possible to identify that the crop was in the field

Fallow management

Growers planning to use fallow land as a crop to count towards the three-crop rule are reminded that it must be present from 1 May to 30 June 2020 and the fallow management requirements must be met.

Anyone also wanting to use fallow land to meet their Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements must follow more restrictive management rules which apply from 1 January to 30 June 2020.

Force majeure

Defra has suggested that if bad weather or flooding continue to prevent farmers meeting the crop diversification requirements, growers may be able to claim under force majeure arrangements.

But it will not consider any force majeure requests until later in spring 2020.

For now, Defra is suggesting that growers start collecting evidence to support a possible future claim, if it becomes clear that it won’t be possible to establish spring crops.

Examples of appropriate evidence include rainfall data related to your farm or local area, seed invoices supported by delivery notes, evidence of your original cropping plans for 2020, and photographs showing the conditions in your fields.

Defra’s full guidance note on claiming BPS and greening payments in extreme weather can be found here.

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