EU moves towards easing burden of greening on farmers

EU POLICYMAKERS are making significant strides towards reducing the burden of ‘greening’ on farmers, under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform process.

All parties involved in the process - MEPs, EU Ministers and the European Commission - are moving towards a package of measures which will give farmers greater flexibility in how they implement greening requirements.

The European Commission proposed all EU farmers would have to comply with the same three basis measures: developing Environmental Focus Areas (EFAs) across 7 per cent of their land, retaining permanent pasture and crop rotation.

But, following criticism, the proposals are being changed.

Scottish MEP George Lyon, who represents EU Liberal Party MEPs in CAP reform discussions, said representatives had ‘virtually signed off’ Parliament’s ‘compromise’ position on greening this week.

“We have brought much greater flexibility and choice to the policy. It will allow the UK to choose measures suitable for UK farmers,” he said.

‘Green by definition’

Under the plans, farmers in certain agri-environment schemes will be considered ‘green by definition’ as long as the scheme is deemed ‘equivalent’ to the three greening measures.

Farms made up of at least 75 per cent grassland will also be ‘green by definition’ and exempt from the EFA and crop rotation requirements, Mr Lyon said.

In addition, farmers will be free to choose other measures under existing or new certified schemes to exempt them from greening.

MEPs are also pushing to ease the burden of the three base requirements themselves, including substantially reducing the EFA area to around 3 per cent, shifting the requirement to retain permanent pasture to national level, rather than farmer level, and easing the rules on crop rotation, particularly for small farms.

Mr Lyon said he expected the compromise package to be signed off by early next year.

Maeve Whyte, director of the UK farming unions’ Brussels office, said greening plans were undoubtedly being made ‘more workable and more palatable to farmers’.

But she said it could be a ‘double-edged sword’ if the added flexibility meant the UK was landed with tougher requirements than its competitors.

Ensuring genuine ‘equivalence’ will be vital, she said.

Greening measures

Farmers will have to comply with greening measures to receive 30 per cent of the new CAP Basic Payment from 2014 or 2015.

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