SPS to BPS: Here we go again!
“Just as the agricultural industry has got to terms with the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) here comes the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)!! This is unlikely to be as contentious or problematic as the changes from the old IACS Scheme (for those of us who remember it) however, farmers, landowners and managers will need to get to grips with the new scheme quickly in order to avoid penalties.
“At present, we still await full details of how the scheme will operate, as well as the conditionality and rules, and no doubt “the devil” will lie therein.
“Whilst some may view farming as a seasonal industry, particularly in the arable heartland of the Eastern Region, the plans for next year’s cropping and beyond, together with the management of the farming unit, are already well advanced. It is therefore frustrating for many farmers having to “second guess” the new regulations without knowing what the true impact is likely to be. No doubt the new scheme will be inflexible, and it will be the usual case of “do as we say, not as we do”.
“Amongst the plethora of new regulations, “Greening” is likely to have the biggest impact. And two areas which are likely to cause the biggest management headache will be crop diversification and the introduction of ecological focus areas (EFA). These are outlined as follows:
Farmers will more than 30 hectares of eligible land may need to grow at least three different crops. Other rules apply to smaller holdings.
It is vital to consider the implication of this now, as crop rotations and management may need to be changed to ensure compliance in 2015. This may not prove as problematic as first thought as winter and spring sown crops of the same genus are to be deemed different crops and “crops” will include fallow land and grass. To complicate matters further, the main crop cannot exceed 75% of the arable area (however that is calculated!) and the two main crops together must not exceed 95% of the arable area.
How is this likely to impact on your farming system and what management plans can you implement now to deal with the new regulations?
Ecological Focus Areas (EFA)
Farmers with more than 15 hectares of eligible land must create an EFA of a size equivalent to 5% of their total eligible area. This is likely to include certain “unfarmable” features, including wide ditches and hedgerows. It may also include nitrogen fixing crops (which may also count towards you crop diversification requirements) and other specialist crops with high environmental value. An EFA will also include land managed as fallow, buffer strips and short rotation coppice.
Unfortunately, the details of what will constitute an EFA, the means of measuring or allocating “points”, and other management requirements have not yet been published, irrespective of the fact this will be a vital part of the new scheme and one which is likely to require careful consideration, planning and management.
“The general advice is to “watch this space” and take professional advice in order to ensure a smooth transition into BPS and full compliance with the new scheme rules.”
Fenn Wright’s Rural department constantly works to adapt and evolve it’s services to meet the changing needs of our clients and David Ward would be pleased to provide advice around the specific issues of this policy development. He can even help fill in the forms! Please get in touch for more information.