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Greening is becoming an important part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and will be a key part of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which comes into effect on 1 January 2015.

A significant portion of the BPS payment – 30 per cent – will be dependant on meeting  these new greening rules, so it is imperative that farmers start planning now and if

necessary start making changes, so that they do not miss out on this vital financial support.

The greening rules are compulsory and must be followed from 2015. If not, farmers risk  losing some or all of their greening payment in 2015 and 2016 with a higher penalty from 2017. They are also more likely to be inspected by DEFRA if they are found not to be following the greening rules.

Certified organic farms will be exempt, although if only part of their land is certified as organic, they will need to comply with the greening rules for the remaining portion
of their farm if they don’t want to lose out on the subsidy.

The greening rules

The new greening rules cover three areas:

Crop diversification
If the holding comprises less than 10 hectares of arable land, there will be no crop diversification requirement.

If the holding comprises 10-30 hectares of arable land, you will have to follow the crop diversification rules of two or more crops of which the main crop can be no more
than 75 per cent of the area.

If the holding comprises 30 hectares or more then three or more crops will be required of which the main crop must be no more than 75 per cent of the main area and crops no more than 95 per cent of the area.

Crops are defined as plants of a different genera or species. Fallow and temporary grass will also be classed as crops and it is interesting to note that winter and spring varieties of plants, such as winter and spring barley will be classed as separate crops.

Ecological Focus Areas
If you have more than 15 hectares of arable land, you will need to have at least 5 per cent of your total eligible area designated as an ‘Ecological Focus Area’ (EFA) – unless you qualify for an exemption.

Farmers can choose from the following five options to meet their EFA obligations:

• leave land lying fallow
• create buffer strips
• plant catch and cover crops
• plant nitrogen fixing crops such as legumes
• maintain hedges

Permanent grassland
In England the overall percentage of permanent grassland – compared to the agricultural area – must not fall by more than 5 per cent.

Effectively there is no change from the current position as there is already a national pasture retention rule under cross-compliance.

The greening rules are certain to be testing, and as they must be calculated afresh each year, the burden on farmers will be high.