PLANTING nitrogen-fixing crops such as peas and beans will count towards farmers’ greening measures under new CAP rules.

Defra has released further details on how CAP will be implemented from 2015, including an announcement that limited landscape features will count towards the five per cent of the new environmental Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) required under the new CAP rules by farmers in 2015.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said that, at a time when farmers and growers were doing all they could to meet the increased food production challenge ahead as well as minimise their impact on the environment, sensible decisions on land use were crucial.

He said: “NFU members have been awaiting these critical announcements so they can plan for next year and while many will be disappointed that all landscape features won’t count from year one of the new CAP, there will be some relief that nitrogen-fixing crops such as peas and beans will count.

“We have pressed hard on this and I am pleased to see that Secretary of State Owen Patterson and his ministers have also made an important and pragmatic decision to include hedges in the range of options farmers can use to meet their Ecological Focus Area requirements in 2015 and not face restrictions on inputs.

“We have long argued it is critical to have hedges included – after years of counting towards agrienvironment schemes, it would have been a real own goal if they didn’t feature towards the new EFAs.

“Today’s news means more choice for farmers and less land taken out of food production as well as achieving a clear positive benefit for the environment.

“However, this is only year one. For NFU members, our work on this continues as I know some will be bitterly disappointed that we haven’t got wider landscape features from 2015. For some, I believe that compliance under the new CAP will mean taking land out of production. That’s bad news for farmers, for the agri-food sector and for the UK economy.

“We already know that there will be a review of EFAs, but there also needs to be a review of crop diversification at the earliest opportunity and that’s something the NFU will continue to push for. I expect to see a wider array of landscape features on offer from 2016 onwards.”