Three crop rule to be relaxed in England

The three crop rule has been relaxed in England following the recent wet winter
The three crop rule has been relaxed in England following the recent wet winter

The three crop rule has been relaxed following extreme weather and flooding across England, the government has announced today.

Defra has announcing new measures on Friday (20 March) to help farmers recover from recent flooding.

Defra Secretary George Eustice has confirmed today that the government intends to relax the crop diversification requirements known as the “three crop rule” for farmers for 2020.

It comes as farmers in flooded areas have suggested they will have difficulty complying with the rule this year.

The three crop rule was brought over from EU law when the UK left the EU on 31 January, and requires farmers managing more than 30 hectares of arable land required to grow at least three different crops on that land.

Farmers with smaller land-holdings are also subject to crop diversification requirements.

NFU President Minette Batters welcomed the measures. She said: “This derogation will make a huge difference to the thousands of farmers in England who have faced months of relentless heavy rain, waterlogging and flooding of fields leaving them unable to plant and establish crops for 2020.

“The unprecedented situation has meant farmers up and down the country have found it virtually impossible to have one crop in the ground, let alone three.

"Without a derogation they would have been forced down the bureaucratic ‘force majeure’ route that would require case by case assessments and needless paperwork."

The government has also announced a £6 million pot of funding to help farmers recover from flooding in February. It will provided through a further extension to the Farming Recovery Fund.

Support will be available for farmers affected by recent flooding in parts of East and North Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Herefordshire.

Mr Eustice said: “The Three Crop Rule is not practical in extreme weather events when farmers need to plan their spring cropping.

"Applying a blanket derogation for this year is the best way to reduce bureaucracy and leave farmers free to get on with farming."

He added: “I’m also aware that the spread of the coronavirus is causing other difficulties for the farming community.

"The Rural Payments Agency is working to ensure farmers have access to all the guidance they need and we are exploring all options to ensure the right support is available in the coming weeks and months,” Mr Eustice said.

Under the Farming Recovery Fund, affected farmers in eligible areas can claim for grants between £500 and £25,000 to cover a number of uninsurable repair costs.

These could include the re-cultivation of farmland, including re-seeding, replanting cover crops and alleviating soil compaction.

The fund was opened to support the recovery from the June and July 2019 floods in North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

It was then extended to cover the further flooding in parts of South Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and the Midlands in November 2019.

Today’s announcement brings the total funding up to £10 million.