Livestock farmer’s guide to cross-compliance and greening

Livestock producers may think they are relatively safe when it comes to the new greening and cross-compliance rules for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

But there are a number of changes that are going to have an effect on even the most extensive systems.

Since 1 January this year, all farmers claiming the BPS must comply with the new rules, or face potentially hefty penalties, says Emily Evans, business research consultant at Andersons.

See also: How the Scottish CAP greening rules affect your livestock farm

“From this date, cross-compliance rules will be assessed on outcomes rather than procedures, so even if you are taking action to prevent non-compliance, you may face penalties if the issue still occurs,” she says.

“It is therefore important to understand the new requirements, and take steps at an early stage to avoid potential penalties.”


A number of Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) have been removed or altered:

  • Longer no-trimming period for hedges now covers 1 March to 31 August inclusive. You can seek a derogation if planting temporary grass or oilseed rape in August.
  • New rules to protect stone and earth banks. The exemption which allowed stone to be removed from stone walls to repair footpaths has been removed.
  • There is no need to complete a soil protection review, but there are new rules around soils – see table right.
  • Statutory management requirements covering sewage sludge, notifiable diseases, wild birds and plant protection products have been removed as they duplicate existing legislation.
  • The old GAEC 11 (control of weeds) and 12 (agricultural land which is not in agricultural production) have both been removed. But this land must still be maintained so it is kept clear from dense scrub.

What the greening rules cover and what they protect

The greening rules cover crop diversification and ecological focus areas (EFAs) – they also give protection to permanent grassland.

In a nutshell – greening penalties

  • If greening measures are not followed, the BPS payment will be reduced.
  • Greening penalties are only applied to arable land.
  • The penalties for the crop diversification and EFA elements are calculated and applied separately (then added together at the end of the process).
  • For both EFA and crop diversification the penalty range is from 0-15% of the BPS on arable land.
  • The penalty is calculated based on the shortfall against the greening requirement – if the requirement has been ignored then it will be a 15% penalty; a minor shortfall will incur a penalty close to 0%.
  • If, when added together, the penalties are at the maximum for both crop diversification and EFA, the full 30% greening payment will be lost on arable land.

EFAs are a type of environmental set-aside and require 5% of the arable area in a claim to be put into certain uses or states.

Greening penalties are based on the shortfall from the requirement. If your EFA falls short by a small percentage then you will face a small penalty. Ignoring EFA entirely would result in a BPS penalty of 15%.

Many livestock farmers will be exempt due to having more than 75% of their eligible land in permanent and temporary grassland, with their remaining arable land covering less than 30ha.

It is important when calculating EFA obligations to understand the distinction between eligible land and arable land.

The eligible area is the whole area on which BPS is claimed, while the arable area is any eligible land that is not in permanent pasture or permanent crops. The arable area therefore includes temporary grassland.

Those who do have to comply with the rules may find they are already carrying out a number of measures that could satisfy the requirement.

Options for EFAs include buffer strips – areas of grass that bound a watercourse on or next to arable land.

Even if they already exist through an environmental stewardship agreement, buffer strips can be used to satisfy EFA requirements.

Whether 1m wide (minimum width in England – see next page for Scotland and Wales) or 10m wide, each metre length of buffer strip will be worth 9m of EFA.

The area must not be used for crop production, although if it is temporary grass it can be grazed or cut so will not need to be fenced.

Temporary grass (not to be grazed or silaged) and certain other crops can be grown on EFA land – such as nitrogen-fixing peas and beans as well as clover and lucerne, but these must be grown singly, not within grass mixtures.

There are no rules limiting fertiliser or herbicide applications and each hectare grown will contribute 0.7ha of EFA.

Fallow, hedges, catch crops and green cover are also eligible uses of EFA land.

Typical greening issues on a livestock farm

In 2015, a farm of 150ha has 90ha of temporary grass (which is classed as an arable crop), 28ha of permanent grassland, 30ha of maize and 2ha of kale.

The farm has 3.1ha of ecological focus area (EFA) in hedges and other existing features.

Although grassland covers 79% of the land, the remaining arable area is more than 30ha, so this farm must meet the three-crop rule.

The main crop (temporary grassland) covers less than 75% and the two main crops (temporary grass and maize) cover less than 85%,
so the farm satisfies crop diversification rules.

The required EFA area is 5% of arable land – or 6.1ha in this case – so the farm needs to allocate another 3ha of land, or land equivalent in EFA features, if it is not to suffer a penalty.

The farm can use buffer strips to increase EFA, use some of the grassland as fallow (leave ungrazed from 1 January to 30 June) or include some lucerne or other nitrogen-fixing crop instead of kale or maize.

The calculation of EFA requirements is the same in England, Scotland and Wales, but the qualifying features and their management rules differ.

For example, dates for fallow land are different for each region (15 January to 15 July in Scotland, 1 January to 30 June in England and 1 February to 31 July in Wales).

Buffer strips in Scotland must be 2m wide, stone walls can be used in Wales, gaps in hedges can be up to 20m in England, 2m in Wales and in Scotland hedges cannot be used at all.

New soil protection rules for 2015 BPS

GAEC 4 – providing minimum soil cover

Cross-compliance penalties usually 3% for negligence (1-5% depending on extent, severity, reoccurrence and permanence). 20% for an intentional breach (15-100%).


Provide soil cover unless there is an agronomic reason not to or if doing so would conflict with minimising soil erosion.

What to look for

Soil cover must be provided unless:


  • Conflict with GAEC 5 (soil erosion)
  • Land managed for pest or disease control (for example, ploughed to prevent weeds going to seed)
  • Installation of field drains
  • Areas created for wildlife, biodiversity, agri-environment schemes or greening
  • Where land is being prepared as a seed-bed, to be sown within 14 days (weather permitting)
  • Action from animals makes maintaining cover impossible (pigs, poultry, outwintered stock).

Potential solution

Soil cover must be provided by:

  • Crop, grass or herbaceous forage
  • Green or cover crop (may be eligible for greening)
  • Overwintered stubbles or crop residues (vegetables, maize, sugar beet).

GAEC 5 – minimising soil erosion

Cross-compliance penalties usually 3% for negligence (1-5% depending on extent, severity, reoccurrence and permanence). 20% for an intentional breach (15-100%).


Put measures in place to minimise soil erosion. Where measures have been put in place, but erosion still occurs it will still be deemed non-compliance if:

  • Erosion is over a single area greater than 1ha

Erosion is caused by livestock trampling along a continuous stretch of more than 20x2m of a watercourse.

What to look for

Identifying erosion:

  • Channels, rills or gulleys in the soil
  • Sheet erosion where soil is washed away
  • Soil deposits in valleys, adjacent land, roads or watercourses
  • Muddy or silted watercourses
  • Wind erosion
  • Minor erosion where there has been little soil loss, such as that found around gateways, ring feeders or water troughs, will not be penalised.


Potential solution

Poaching in itself is not a breach but can lead to compaction, run-off and erosion. Some solutions may be:

  • Moving livestock regularly
  • Using buffer strips
  • Back-fencing

Fencing off watercourses

Loosen soil when conditions allow by ploughing, subsoiling and sward lifting

Outdoor pigs can cause erosion issues. Some solutions include:

  • Grass strips to intercept run-off
  • Large feeding troughs to avoid compaction
  • Tracks following contours of the land

Reduced stocking rate on steeper slopes.