Greening –time to engage

Many in the farming industry have taken only a passing interest in CAP reform until now, writes Richard King of Andersons. With the interminable negotiations, and the outcome unknown, it made sense to devote little time to understanding it. However, it is now clearer what the reform means for farmers and they need to start to plan for the changes. This is why Andersons Spring Seminars will be covering the subject in detail.

The ‘big idea’ in the new policy is ‘greening’ – requiring farmers to undertake environmental practices in return for part of their new Basic Payment. With the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) starting on the 1st January 2015, then plantings this autumn must be greening-compliant.

The detailed rules are still being worked on, but more information emerges on almost a weekly basis, and the industry now knows enough to start considering how to integrate greening into its cropping plans for 2014/15.

One example of this is Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). To re-cap (and simplify) under greening those claiming the BPS from 2015 who have more than 15 hectares of arable land will be required to put 5% of their holding into EFA.

Until now, it was not clear what land might count towards EFA, but draft EU legislation now sets out a quite comprehensive list;
• Landscape features – to include hedges, wooded banks, trees (single/lines/field copses), field margins, ponds, ditches and stone walls
• Buffer strips – against watercourses and woodland
• Agro-forestry – i.e. mixed trees and grazing or cropping
• Short rotation coppice – but with no inputs allowed
• Woodland – but only where it is being funded under a Rural Development scheme e.g. the English Woodland Grant Scheme
• Catch crops or cover crops
• Nitrogen fixing crops – likely to be field beans and peas, lucerne, clover and lupins

The reform agreement also promised a ‘matrix’ for EFA. This would convert linear features such as hedges into an area equivalent for EFA, and also give certain land different weighting when it comes to calculating EFA. A draft of this matrix has now been produced. Although the figures could change, this is probably unlikely.

The landscape features apart from ditches and stone walls have a weighting of 1.5. This means that 1 hectare of hedges will actually provide 1.5 hectares worth of EFA. Conversely, catch crops and nitrogen fixing crops have a weighting of less than one. This means more land will be needed to meet the requirement. For example, 3.33 hectares of field beans will be required to produce 1 hectare of EFA Precise definitions on qualifying criteria are still awaited, but the information is now available for farmers to starting making plans on how they might meet the EFA requirements.
The same is true of the other main plank of greening – the crop diversification rules, and also the whole BPS system generally. To help the industry get to grips with the new rules Andersons the Farm Business Consultants are running a series of thirteen Seminars around Great Britain in March looking at the reforms in detail.

The other main effect of the reforms will be a drop in support funding for most farms. Businesses will be looking to the market, or improved efficiencies, to offset this loss of support. The Seminars also look at the business outlook for British agriculture and what the best farms are currently doing.

All attendees to the Seminars get a full colour printed booklet with the presentation and accompanying detailed notes. There will also be the opportunity for delegates to meet a wide cross-section of the agricultural industry to exchange ideas and views on the industry. For further details of the events please go to – www.theandersonscentre.co.uk/Seminars.asp or call 01664 503200.

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