Environment Secretary hails UK success in securing steps to make CAP simpler for farmers

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has welcomed a series of changes announced by the European Commission to make it easier for UK farmers to meet Common Agricultural Policy rules, but warned there is still more to do reduce the burdens of the current scheme.

From next year farmers will now have more choice of hedgerows on their land that can be used to meet the new greening rules as part of their Basic Payment Scheme claim. The change – one of three improvements the UK has secured from Europe – will mean that hedges separated from a field by another feature such as a farm track or a wide ditch can now be counted towards their greening requirements, and make it easier for farmers to complete their claim.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

“Food and farming is a powerhouse of our economy and I will not allow anything to stand in the way of the progress of this thriving industry. That includes making the rules farmers need to follow as simple as possible.

“Reducing the complexity of the CAP and the red tape that comes with it is something I have been pushing for with Commissioner Hogan so I welcome these steps to help our farmers.

“This is good progress but there is much more to do and I will continue to press the Commission to be bolder in their reforms, including a full and urgent review of the greening regulations and more flexible inspections to allow farmers to use more photographic evidence to support farm visits.”

In addition to the increased choice of hedgerows for greening, the UK secured two other changes from the European Commission. These are:

· Making it easier for the Rural Payments Agency to process farmers’ claims by removing the need to have detailed maps of features such as ponds, ditches and hedgerows that are not part of their application.

· Avoiding the need for areas of heather to be listed differently to other types of grassland on RPA’s maps.

The Environment Secretary laid out the case for these reforms to Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan during a visit he made in February, when he was invited to meet farmers in Solihull who explained the changes they would need to make to their businesses to meet the constraints of the new greening rules.

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