Crop rule concerns

First published in Rural Focus by

THE concerns of thousands of farmers in England over the three crop rule, which will be a requirement of the next CAP, have again been raised with the European Commission by NFU president Peter Kendall.

Describing the rule as “utter madness”, Mr Kendall has called on the Commission to scrap the rule at the earliest opportunity.

The new rule, which requires some farmers with more than 30ha of arable land to grow three different crops, comes into force from January 1, 2015. In order to meet the requirements, farmers will need to factor the new rule into their cropping plans that are being made now and within the coming months.

Mr Kendall said: “I have had countless calls from members completely at a loss to understand the logic behind this new requirement.

By far the vast majority of those farmers practice crop rotation or have built up sustainable continuous cropping systems. They have built their businesses to generate efficiencies, moving towards block cropping, contract farming arrangements and share farming agreements.

This rule undermines much of those efforts.

“The three crop rule goes against all the NFU core policy principles of simplicity, market orientation and increased efficiency. It will increase costs, reduce efficiency, increase traffic on rural roads and, in some cases, could lead to negative environmental consequences.

It’s utter madness and should be scrapped at the earliest opportunity. I am afraid that, in the short term, this is unlikely and farmers need to prepare themselves for the rule coming.

“I have asked the European Commission to come forward with a proposal to end this rule when it considers ecological focus areas in 2017.

The NFU will work through its Brussels office to build alliances with farmers in other member states and I encourage those affected to raise their concerns directly with their MEPs and the candidates for the European Parliament elections in May who, if elected, would be in a position to call for change in Brussels.”

CLA agricultural adviser Ed Barker said anecdotal evidence suggests that even more farms – about one-third – will be affected in some way by the crop diversification rules.

He said: “We have spoken to members up and down the country and the feedback has been that many more will be affected by this measure than the quoted seven per cent.

“While many members have told us they currently grow three or more crops, in many cases they will have to amend the proportions of those crops, or make changes to future cropping plans.”

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