How subsidy rule changes will affect East Anglian arable farmers

Changes have been made to the EU-funded Basic Payment Scheme for farmers in 2018. Photo : Julien Beh

Changes have been made to the EU-funded Basic Payment Scheme for farmers in 2018. Photo : Julien Behal/PA Wire - Credit: PA

As the application window opens for this year's Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), farmers have been advised to be aware of rule changes which will affect arable enterprises in East Anglia.

Andrew Fundell, parter at the Norwich office of Brown & Co.

Andrew Fundell, parter at the Norwich office of Brown & Co. - Credit: Brown & Co

While there still are an estimated 6pc of 2017 claims still awaiting payment, this week the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) began accepting applications for the 2018 BPS, with a deadline of May 15.

Andrew Fundell, agri-business consultant at the Norwich office of Brown and Co, said although many farmers will be familiar with the rules in the fourth year of the EU-funded subsidy scheme, there are changes affecting this year's claims.

Some relate to the requirement for applicants with more than 30 hectares of arable land to set aside 5pc of it as an 'ecological focus area' (EFA) – or risk losing a percentage of their payments.

The changes include:

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• A complete ban on the use of plant protection products (PPPs) on EFA fallow land, catch and cover crops and nitrogen-fixing crops.

• The EFA option for buffer strips is extended to field margins.

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• EFA catch crops must be in place from August 20 to October 14.

Mr Fundell said: 'Many to date have used field beans or vining peas to meet the EFA requirement; with the ban on PPPs this is no longer appropriate in most cases. Many will be opting for the field margin buffer strip option to meet the EFA requirement as an alternative next to hedges.

'They must be at least one metre wide and can be part of the two-metre cross compliance buffer strip. However where the field boundary is a hedge, the one-metre minimum width must be measured from the edge of the hedge canopy for the full scheme year. In this case, one linear meter of buffer strip with count as 9sqm of EFA.

'The fallow land period for EFA runs from January 1 to June 30. Most activities within this period are prohibited except for drainage work, establishing mixes covered under an agri-environment scheme or topping green cover. You are not able to control blackgrass for example during the fallow period by spraying or cultivation.

'Finally, most will be aware that the RPA has been undertaking a re-mapping exercise. You would be well advised to check the most recent maps on the RPA system.

'The RPA has also introduced a new hedge layer onto the maps, these will need careful checking and if you need to make amendments to the assumptions made by the RPA as to the location of hedges especially if you're are planning to use them as part of your EFA, am RLE1 will need to be submitted.'

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