Defra has released important information on how the new Common Agricultural Policy will be implemented in England, including how the new ‘greening’ requirements will work in practice. Of particular interest to cereal and oilseeds growers will be clarification of the rules around crop diversification and ecological focus areas (EFAs).Crop diversification, also known as the ‘2 or 3 crop rule’ stipulates that if a farmer has 10 or more hectares of arable land, they have to follow crop diversification rules in order to continue receiving the full greening payment.The crop diversification rules are different for different areas of arable land:- Less than 10 ha of arable land: No crop diversification requirements.
- 10 – 30 ha of arable land: At least 2 different crops on the arable land with the largest crop covering no more than 75% of arable area.
- More than 30 ha of arable land: At least 3 different crops on the arable land, with the largest crop not covering more than 75% and the two largest crops together not covering more than 95% of the arable area.For cereal and oilseeds growers, the definition of spring and winter varieties of the same crop is particularly important:· For purposes of crop diversification, spring and winter varieties count as separate crops.· Growers can use the spring and winter categories from the HGCA Recommended Lists to check compliance with crop diversification rules.· Spring and winter crops are defined by their classification on the National List not the date they are sown by individual farmers.· The National List (Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette) is published by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and details all crop varieties which can be legally grown in the UK, the full national list is available at www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/publications/gazette.cfm· The HGCA Recommended Lists use the information from the National List to define whether a variety is winter or spring.· Anyone growing varieties not on the HGCA Recommended Lists will need to refer to the National List.· In the HGCA Recommended Lists, there is a table called ‘Spring wheat (for late autumn sowing)’. This table is to provide agronomic information to growers about varietal performance at different sowing dates. This table in no way defines spring or winter varieties with respect to CAP crop diversification.· If a crop is not classed as either winter or spring on the National List, it is classed as a spring crop under the greening rules.In relation to Ecological focus areas (EFA), they need to be equivalent to at least 5% of the total arable area for farms with more than 15ha of eligible arable land. Farmers will be able to choose which areas and/or features that can be used to make up their EFA from the following: buffer strips, nitrogen-fixing crops, hedges, fallow land and catch crops and cover crops. The latest update of the Defra document provides further information on the definition for each of these features, as well as identifying which crops will be considered as ‘nitrogen-fixing’ under the EFA rules.Please note that there are some exemptions for both crop diversification and EFA regulations. Refer to the Defra document for more information.All of the information above applies only to England; HGCA is seeking details from the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about how crop diversification rules will be applied there.