Greening shift to help Scottish growers

NFU Scotland has welcomed a Scottish Government announcement that makes the growing of Nitrogen Fixing Crops (NFC) a viable greening option for Scottish farmers. That marks progress in bringing a complete greening package for Scotland forward.

Looking ahead, the Union said Scottish Government’s commitment today to a review process before 2016 is in line with Europe’s simplification agenda and opens the door to a more workable scheme in the future.

Rules around NFCs, like peas and beans, being grown to help a farm meet its Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements have been clarified. Importantly, the rules will now allow producers to grow only one crop, rather than two, in 2015 to qualify. The requirements around NFCs were one of the key areas covered last week when a delegation of Scottish farmers met with Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to discuss greening requirements. The area will be subject to review in 2016.

While disappointed that the use of conversion factors in calculating EFA cannot be adopted for 2015, the Union is pleased that their potential uptake – which would lower compliance risks for growers and enforcement officers – will also form part of the greening review to be carried out in time for the 2016 scheme year. Their adoption would allow field margins and buffer strips to be a more meaningful part of Scotland’s greening commitment.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said:
“Scotland’s farmers – both arable and the more intensive livestock and dairy producers – are struggling to comprehend the complexity that complying with greening measures presents.

“Arable farmers were rightly angered at the impact that greening posed to their businesses and the conditions that were proposed for nitrogen fixing crops being grown for EFA purposes. That prompted them to take their concerns to the Scottish Parliament last week.

“The roadmap for implementation of greening measures is not going to be easy but the immediate pressures, which made the growing of NFCs as part of EFA almost impossible, have been pushed back.

“Clarification around areas such as fallow, catch crops and green cover also helps ease the growing frustration that farmers have had over the speed with which vital information on greening has been coming forward.

“On field margins and buffer strips, we would have preferred the adoption of conversion factors from year one of the new CAP regime. Their use would have delivered simplification to the benefit of both growers and those Scottish Government officials charged with inspecting compliance.

“We, with Scottish Government, are now committed to a greening review process before 2016 in line with the European Commissioner Elect, Phil Hogan’s simplification agenda. We recognise that greening must deliver for the environment but it must also work on farm and be simple to audit.

“Buffer strips and field margins will make a meaningful contribution to all those priorities. However, a key part of the review process must mean the introduction in 2016 of conversion factors to make delivery and audit robust.

“Arable farmers, and those livestock and dairy producers with arable or temporary grass, now have greater clarity on what options are open to them in year one of the new CAP to meet their greening obligations and allow them to plan ahead. To speed up the decision-making process we have urged Scottish Government to write to all claimants in the near future to lay out in simple terms what they need to do to meet their greening obligations.

“While many arable farmers have been considering greening options for some time, it is apparent that those livestock and milk producers with temporary grass and some arable may not have greening on their radar. NFU Scotland will consider how we address that but it is inherent on Scottish Government to also deliver clear messages on greening to all affected farmers.”

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