Scotland drops three-crop rule but keeps EFAs for 2021

The three-crop rule is being dropped in Scotland for 2021 claims, but other greening requirements will be retained.

This means that ecological focus areas (EFAs) will stay in place in the short term, subject to a wider review, says the Scottish government.

Permanent grassland will also continue to be protected.

The move is in contrast to Defra’s abolition of greening requirements from next year in England.  

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said the Scottish government had worked closely with stakeholders and listened to the farming and crofting communities to simplify its schemes.

See also: Greening measures to be scrapped for 2021 in England

“Removing crop diversification from greening not only does this, but demonstrates our commitment to practices that are favourable for the climate and the environment,” said Mr Ewing.

“By working with farmers and crofters to enhance EFAs, we can help cut emissions and enhance the environment in a way that is practical for Scottish agriculture.”

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said the move was a significant step in the right direction.

“NFU Scotland has consistently argued that the EU’s blunt greening rules were poorly targeted on Scottish environmental issues,” he said.

See also: Changes to CS applications allowed after greening rules axed

“Scrapping the crop diversification requirement [three-crop rule] makes for common sense, while the importance of permanent grassland and efficient input use should be explored in the context of both climate ambitions and business performance.

“As for EFAs, the union has long advocated smarter, more effective options that are also less onerous. If the principle of EFAs is to be retained, then it’s right that farmer-led revisions are made to embrace climate change as well as biodiversity.”

The announcement of the change in direction follows the passing of the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish parliament last week, giving the Scottish government powers to continue the CAP after Brexit.

These changes marked the first steps to implement simplifications and improvements to the administration of CAP schemes, as well as giving farmers reassurance to plan their crops now, said Mr Ewing.

“As set out in our programme for government, we are committed to a green recovery, and Scotland’s rural economy will be at the heart of that.”

The Scottish government’s proposed changes to greening are based on direct support payments continuing in Scotland from 2021 until at least 2024 on the same basis as currently is the case.

The review of EFAs will be part of a wider examination of greening to ensure this funding plays its full part in helping farming deliver action on climate change and the environment which better meet Scotland’s needs, said the Scottish government.