How the three-crop CAP rule will affect your livestock farm

English livestock farmers are being urged to assess how their system fits into the new greening criteria coming into force next year, as failing to comply could prove costly.

While farmers await clarification on some issues relating to the implementation of CAP reform, enough is known in England to start planning ahead.

This need to start planning is being driven by the hefty cost of failing to abide by the rules, with up to 30% of annual direct payments at stake.

See also: Changes to cropping to comply with CAP greening could have an impact on dairy rations. Nutritionist Paul Macer gives his thoughts on pulses and different wholecrop options.

Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the arable sector, but mixed livestock and also dairy enterprises could have to make significant changes to the way they run their businesses in the future.

In order to continue to access full support payments, many livestock farmers will have to consider how their cropping now will fit into the 2015 crop diversification greening rules and also show that they have put an environmental focus on to a certain area of the farm, forming an ecological focus area (EFA).

The Single Payment Scheme is becoming the Basic Payment Scheme – a simple name change, but the devil is in the detail.

See also: Read the latest on greening by visiting our dedicated CAP reform page.

Scenario planning

Adrian MatthewsAdrian Matthews

No two farms are the same, which means the CAP rules have varying levels of impact. Adrian Matthews, from Bidwells, presents four different scenarios, which outline the requirements and the options available, help illustrate how it will affect farmers.

Example 1

A 102ha dairy farm has 70ha of permanent grassland, grows 20ha of wheat and 12ha of forage maize

The rules

  • The farm has 32ha of arable land (wheat and maize) so the farmer must grow three crops across this land. The largest single crop area must not exceed 22.5ha (75% of the arable land).
  • The 70ha of grassland is permanent so not affected by crop diversification rules.
  • The farm must have ecological focus areas (EFA) measures equivalent to at least 1.5ha (5% of the total arable area).

The options

If only 7ha of additional grass is put down then the grass area exceeds 75% of the total area and the remaining arable area is less than 30ha, so the farmer is exempt from diversification requirements, plus the farm will be exempt from EFA.

Depending on soil type the farm could grow an area of lucerne rather than increasing the grassland area. This would become the third crop and form part of the EFA. Growing 3ha of lucerne will be sufficient for both the third crop and EFA.

Example 2

A 100ha dairy farm has 20ha of permanent grassland, grows 33ha of winter wheat, 45ha of winter barley and 2ha of forage maize

The rules

No single crop is more than 75% of the total arable area of 80ha, but the winter wheat and winter barley together exceed 95% of the total arable area, making this farm non-compliant.

The options

The 20ha of permanent grassland is exempt from the crop diversification rules, but across the remaining 80ha of arable land three different crops must be grown. A single crop cannot exceed 75% of the total arable area and the two largest crop areas joined together must not exceed 95% of the total arable area. This farmer could reduce the amount of winter barley to 40ha and increase the amount of forage maize grown to 7ha to become compliant.

The EFA required is the equivalent of 4ha. This could be met by growing lucerne – 5.7ha would be required. Alternatively the farm can consider leaving buffer strips against watercourses, or establishing a catch or cover crop in the ground destined for maize.

Example 3

A 300ha mixed dairy and arable farm has 100ha of permanent grassland, 50ha of temporary grassland, grows 50ha of forage maize, 30ha of winter wheat, 20ha of spring barley and 50ha of oilseed rape

The rules

  • The farm has more than 30ha of arable land so must grow at least three crops.
  • Across the 200ha of arable land, no single crop must exceed 150ha and the two largest crops’ total area must not exceed 190ha.
  • The farm must have EFA measures equivalent to 10ha.

The options

The cropping programme meets the crop diversification rules as there are more than three eligible crops, no single crop is 150ha and the two biggest are fewer than 190ha.

The farm does have to comply with the EFA requirements and will need the equivalent of 10ha. The farm could amend cropping to include a nitrogen-fixing crop. Growing 14.3ha of peas, beans or lucerne would be sufficient. Alternatively 33.5ha of a catch crop or cover crop prior to the maize or spring barley would be suitable.

Example 4

A 100ha dairy farm has 70ha of permanent grassland, 20ha of temporary grass leys and 10ha 
of maize silage

The rules

If more than 75% of the arable land is permanent, fallow or temporary grassland and the remaining arable land is under 30ha, the farm is exempt from diversification rules.

Clear up EFA and crop rule confusion

Richard WordsworthRichard Wordsworth

The new rules are complex with new definitions, including ecological focus areas. Richard Wordsworth from the NFU presents answers to some key questions for livestock farmers

Q What is crop diversification and what do I have to do?

Farmers with more than 10ha of arable land will have to follow rules on the minimum number of crops they grow and the areas they cover.

Crop diversification is determined by two factors, the amount of arable land that forms part of a holding and whether any exemptions apply.

Q When does a crop count?

The RPA is likely to inspect cropping declarations between 1 May and 30 June.

Q What counts as “arable land” or a “crop”?

The key point for livestock farmers is that temporary grassland and fallow land counts as arable land. Arable land is defined as:

  1. Land cultivated for crop production – including combinable crops, crops grown for fibre, root and field vegetable crops, crops grown for feed such as forage maize and forage rape. Spring and winter varieties of eligible crops, for example spring and winter barley, will also count as separate crops.
  2. Fallow land – this is land with no crop production or grazing. It must be maintained in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation. To count for the purposes of crop diversification rules, land must be kept fallow throughout the inspection period of 1 May to 30 June. If the fallow land is also being counted for ecological focus area (EFA) requirements, then different rules apply.
  3. Temporary grassland – land that has been in grass or other herbaceous forage for fewer than five years. Herbaceous forage can include lucerne, sainfoin, forage vetches and clovers, but does not include the fodder crops of kale, fodder rape or any other forage brassicas, fodder root crops, forage maize or any other cereals grown for silage or for any other form of forage.

Q What are EFAs?

A. Farmers need to consider if they need to have EFAs on their holding. This is determined by the amount of arable land that forms part of the holding and whether any of the exemptions apply.

If the exemptions do not apply, farmers with more than 15ha of arable land must have EFAs.

These areas must be equivalent to at least 5% of the total arable land.

EFAs can be: buffer strips, nitrogen-fixing crops, hedges, fallow land, catch crops and cover crops.

Q What exemptions from crop diversification are there?

  • Certified (or in conversion) organic land automatically meets the greening criteria.
  • Farms with fewer than 10ha of arable land.
  • Farms with more than 75% of arable land in either temporary grassland, fallow or a combination of both and with fewer than 30ha of additional arable land.
  • Exemptions apply if more than 75% of the farms total eligible agricultural area is in permanent or temporary grassland or used for crops grown in water with a remaining arable land total of 30ha or fewer.

Q Where do I fit in?

10-30ha of arable land:

  • You need at least two different crops on arable land. The largest crop must not cover more than 75% of that area.

More than 30ha of arable land

  • At least three different crops must be grown. The largest must not cover more than 75%. The two largest together must not be more than 95%.
  • If temporary grassland or fallow land covers more than 75% of your arable land and you do not meet the other exemptions and the remaining arable land is more than 30ha, the grassland or fallow can count as your main crop.
  • On your remaining arable land you need to grow at least two other crops. Your main crop on this remaining arable land must not cover more than 75% of this land.