Rule change will stop farmers being paid twice for environmental measures

Wildflower margins at a Norfolk farm. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Wildflower margins at a Norfolk farm. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

East Anglia's arable farmers have been warned of a 'subtle' rule change aimed at stopping them being paid twice for environmental features on their land.

Farmers with more than 15ha of land are required to manage 5pc of it as an Ecological Focus Area (EFA) – using measures such as fallow land, field margins, hedges and buffer strips –– to meet the 'greening' criteria of their subsidy payments under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

But green payments for some of these features are also available under separate agri-environment schemes, and businesses which have opted to extend their Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement or who have a new Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme in place have been made aware of a rule change that will come into force for 2019.

Abby Maynard, environmental consultant at the Norwich office of rural agency Brown and Co said: 'From the 2019 BPS application onwards, farmers will no longer be able to use CS arable option areas for EFA, sometimes referred to as greening.

'The RPA (Rural Payments Agency) deems this practice 'double funding' and in a political environment of 'public money for public goods' they will no longer effectively pay twice for the same activity on the same area of land. Importantly, however, those farmers who have an HLS agreement within its initial 10-year life cycle can still 'double fund' on stewardship options.'

READ MORE: More cash-strapped farmers needed financial help in 2018, says charityFarmers were advised there are several other ways to meet the EFA requirements, including buffer strips, cover crops, and leaving fallow areas – but now is the time to plan before spring drilling gets underway.