Government to end 3-crop rule in England from 2021

Farmers in England are set to benefit from a reduced administrative burden next year, as the government plans to end ‘greening requirements’ and begin the move towards the new Environmental Land Management scheme.

The European Commission’s so-called ‘greening requirements’ for Direct Payments have required farmers to carry out specified practices in order to qualify for additional payments.

Also known as the ‘three-crop rule’, the requirements mean farms with more than 10ha of arable land have to grow at least two crops, while at least three crops required on farms with more than 30ha. The main crop may also not cover more than 75% of the land.

These requirements have historically delivered little for the environment, as was documented in the European Court of Auditors 2017 Special Report on greening.

Taking effect from 2021

Under government plans to simplify the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and cut red tape faced by farmers during the agricultural transition period, farmers will have a reduced administrative burden and will no longer have to comply with the so-called greening requirements with effect from the 2021 scheme year.

These changes will not affect the overall payment received by each farmer as the money will instead be added to farmers’ entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme.

The agricultural transition period will last for seven years and see Direct Payments to farmers in England phased out and replaced with a new system that rewards farmers for delivering public goods, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, and creating or restoring habitats for wildlife.

The new Environmental Land Management scheme, expected to be rolled out in late 2024, will introduce new ways of working together with farmers to deliver better environmental outcomes and reverse the decline of some of our most cherished species.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “The so-called greening requirements have added little to our environmental efforts. We believe that farmers will benefit from this reduced bureaucratic burden next year as we begin the move towards our new Environmental Land Management scheme which will deliver greater benefits for the environment.

We will be setting out more detail in the autumn on how we will ensure a smooth transition for our farmers, as they move towards our new, fairer agricultural system, which will reward them for the hard work that they do to protect our environment.

The planned phasing out of Direct Payments will take place gradually to give farmers the time to adapt to the changes.

In the majority of cases, the gradual reduction in these payments will be offset by alternative support being made available to help farmers improve their productivity and aid their transition into the new Environmental Land Management scheme.

Farmers will also continue to be able to apply to Countryside Stewardship schemes until the future scheme is rolled out.

What about Ireland?

It comes just days after the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine here in Ireland confirmed to AgriLand that the crop diversification requirements (two and three-crop rules) will remain in place for the 2020/2021 season.

In a statement to AgriLand, the department noted: “The derogation to the crop diversification obligations that was granted in early 2020 was a limited derogation due to the very difficult weather in the autumn of 2019 and spring of 2020.

“For 2021, the crop diversification obligations will revert to the standard two and three-crop rules.”