CAP Reform 2015 – BPS Greening, are you prepared?

In this CAP reform, farmers have to do more for the environment in order to be eligible for their full BPS subsidy payment. The new Greening rules are compulsory and failure to comply with them will result in 30% of BPS payment being docked for the first 2 years of the scheme and a larger fine after this period.


L&D Ploughing (15)New Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) January 2015

Summarising Greening

In this CAP reform, farmers have to do more for the environment in order to be eligible for their full subsidy payment.  The new ‘Greening’ rules are compulsory and Greening payments equate to 30% of the total BPS payment: If these greening requirements are not adhered to for the first 2 years of the new scheme then 30% of BPS payment will be docked, after this a larger fine shall be applied.

There are two main measures, both affecting arable rather than livestock farmers.   First, any farmer with more than 10 hectares of arable area will have to adhere to the ‘two or three crop rule’ and grow at least two or three different arable crops each year.  Second, arable farmers will have to put 5% of their land into ‘Ecological Focus Areas’.

There will be three Greening requirements:

  1. Crop Diversification
  2. Ecological Focus Areas
  3. Maintaining the national level of permanent pasture


1. Crop Diversification

Crop Divers Table

There has also been a decisive crop list within the EU Common Catalogue which specifies the various eligible crop types and identifies whether a crop is a winter or spring variety, meaning that a crop is not determined by when it is drilled, but by its variety.  For example: Spring barley and Winter barley could be drilled at the same time, but still count as 2 separate crops for crop diversification.

These crops must be in the ground from 1 May to 30 June each year – referred to as the ‘crop inspection period’ for crop diversification.  To make sure farmers are following the rules, RPA will inspect 5% of these farms during this period.  DEFRA have yet to provide information about what may happen in the event of crop failure or early harvested crops etc.

The minimum area for crop diversification has been confirmed as 0.01 hectares.

There are however exemptions available from the crop diversification rules and these apply in the following three cases:

  • If more than 75% of the arable land is grass or fallow (or a combination of both) and the remaining arable area is less than 30 hectares.
  • If more than 75% of the total eligible agricultural area is grass (permanent or temporary) or used for the cultivation of crops grown in water and the remaining arable area is less than 30 hectares.
  • If more than 50% of the declared arable area 2015 BPS application was not declared on your SPS 2014 application provided that all arable land declared on your BPS 2015 application is used to grow a different crop from the 2014 calendar year.


2. Ecological Focus Areas EFAs

Ecological Focus Areas are areas and/or features which the EU has decided are beneficial for the climate and the environment.  These are:

  • Buffer strips (1m = 9m2)
  • Nitrogen-fixing crops (1m2 = 0.7m2)
  • Hedges (1m = 10m2)
  • Fallow land (1m2 = 1m2)
  • Green cover/catch crops (1m2 = 0.7m2)

 The figures in parenthesis above describe the weighting of each feature to its area.  For example, 1,000m of hedgerow will equate to 1ha of land for the purposes of EFA, towards your total 5% requirement.

If a farmer has more than 15 hectares of arable land, unless subject to an exemption, a weighted 5% of the total arable land must be set aside as an EFA.

Farmers will be exempt from the new EFA rules in the following cases:

  • If more than 75% of the arable land is grass, fallow or used for the cultivation of leguminous crops (or a combination of all three) and the remaining arable area is less than 30 hectares.
  • If more than 75% of the total eligible agricultural area is grass (permanent or temporary) or used for the cultivation of crops grown in water or a combination of all three and the remaining arable area is less than 30 hectares.

3. Buffer Strips

A buffer strip as an EFA feature must be:

  • at least 1 metre in width
  • next to a watercourse, or
  • parallel with and on a slope leading to a watercourse (known as an in-field buffer strip)

An in-field EFA buffer strip is a buffer strip which must:

  • be within the parcel that is alongside the watercourse
  • have arable land on both sides
  • be located on a slope which must lead down to the watercourse
  • have a land use on either side that is any of the eligible arable crops (read our August leaflet for more information on crops). If the land use is fallow or temporary grass, these crops should be managed so that the in-field EFA buffer can be distinguished from them
  • have a minimum width of 1 metre
  • be parallel to the water course. There is no set distance that should be maintained between the water course and the in-field EFA buffer strip but it should be placed in a position on the slope where it can significantly influence run-off. So, ideally, it should be placed in the middle of a slope or where the slope is at its steepest.

Each side of a watercourse can potentially be associated with one EFA buffer strip (directly alongside) and/or one EFA ‘in-field’ buffer strip.

As a buffer strip only needs to be 1m thick, there is scope for claimants who already utilise 5m headlands to devote 1 metre of that to buffer strip and the remaining 4 metres to fallow land in order to fulfil EFA requirements, whilst still maintaining a practical headland used to transport machinery around the cropped area. If a claimant does decide to use a headland in this manner, there must be a noticeable difference between the two, e.g. one mown or slightly different varieties of grass.

Nitrogen-Fixing Crops
There are no specific restrictions on the use, location or inputs (for example, pesticides and herbicides) for nitrogen-fixing crops, but farmers must have the crop in the ground during the inspection period 1 May to 30 June each year.   1 square-metre of nitrogen-fixing crops is worth 0.7 square-metres of area under the EFA rules most recently released.

Guidance on Hedges as EFAs
There is no minimum or maximum width or height for a hedge which means newly planted hedges can be used for EFA if they are in the ground when the application is made.  The minimum length for a hedge is 20 metres allowing for gaps such as gateways so long as the each individual gap does not exceed 20m.

A hedge needs to be on or next to eligible arable land.  A fence does not prevent a feature being ‘next’ to an arable field, but a man made track, road or ditch wider than 2m will do.

If arable land is situated on both sides of the hedge and the farmer has both areas of land at their disposal, the can count the whole hedge as an EFA.

A whole hedge permits 1m of length to equate as 10m2 of area.

If a farmer only has the land on one side of the hedge at his disposal or one side is not arable, they will only be able to count half the hedge as a feature.

Half a hedge allows for 1m of length to equate to 5m2 of area.

Managing Fallow Land for the purpose of an EFA
During the EFA fallow period (1 January to 30 June) farmers can use herbicides and cultivation to control weeds but must not declare land as ‘fallow’ if they store bales of hay, silage, straw, muck or farm machinery on it.

Fallow land can be used for the following purposes:

  • Sprayed with herbicides and cultivated to control weeds (for example, Blackgrass, Ragwort, Hemlock). However, they must follow the relevant cross compliance guidance
  • Sow wild bird seed mixes. However, they cannot harvest or graze it (during or after the fallow period)
  • Sow temporary grass, which cannot be fertilised, grazed or harvested between 1st January and 30th June, but can be outside this period
  • carry out drainage work, in accordance with cross compliance
  • An individual parcel must be of at least 2m wide and 0.01 ha total size

EC ruling for ‘land under temporary grass’ has now changed.  A farmer can now sow grass on fallow land during the fallow period as long as they do not carry out any agricultural production during the period.

There are no restrictions on how farmers use their fallow cover outside of this period (except those relating to unharvestable wild bird seed mixes).  This means if the land has a grass cover, it can be grazed or made into hay/silage after 30 June.

Catch Crops/Cover Crops
This must be an unharvestable/ungrazeable crop, made up of at least one cereal and one alternative crop that:

  • establish quickly
  • achieve ground cover
  • will utilise available nutrients

Therefore crops such as stubble turnips and maize cannot be used for this purpose.

Catch crops will need to be established by 31 August in the BPS year and retained until at least 1 October in the same year.

Cover crops will need to be established by 1 October in the Basic Payment Scheme year and retained until at least 15 January the following year. The minimum area of catch/cover crops you can count as part of your EFA is 0.01 hectares.

3. Permanent Pasture

Permanent pasture is defined as grassland which has remained as such for a period of 5 years or more.  If the land has been re-sown with grass or other herbaceous forage during the past 5 years it is still classed as permanent grassland.

The protection of PP is not based on a farm level but on a national percentage and states that the Country’s permanent pasture level cannot fall by more than 5% from the previous scheme.

Therefore apart from the EIA rules, there is no restriction on ploughing up permanent pasture. Taking this into consideration in some situations, grassland being classed as permanent can be more beneficial than temporary as it excludes it from your arable calculations and thus could have an impact of your greening requirements.

Most farmers should not have to do anything differently to meet the permanent grassland rule.

The permanent grassland rules also require that there be no conversion and no ploughing of designated environmentally sensitive grasslands.

Even if farmers are not claiming BPS, they must get consent from Natural England before they plough up or improve land which has not been cultivated for 15 years or which is semi-natural grassland (or another semi-natural area).

Organic Land
Organic land will automatically meet the greening standards, although it cannot then be used to fulfil greening elements for the remaining conventional land that a claimant may hold. Therefore there is an option for a claimant to decide not to automatically qualify their organic land and instead be assessed with the rest of the holding. This may make it easier for claimants to meet their greening requirements if they have a mixed organic and conventional farm.

Dual Use
DEFRA will allow ‘dual use’ arrangements for all existing Environmental Stewardship and Woodland Grant Scheme agreements (including those still to be signed in 2014). This means that one farmer will be able to receive a BPS payment and another farmer or land manager will be able to receive an Environmental Stewardship or Woodland Grant Scheme payment for the same piece of land. However, they must meet all the rules of the scheme that they are in.

Anyone in a dual use situation must keep written records to demonstrate they are eligible for the scheme they claim payment for. For example, written records for a BPS claimant would need to show they have the land ‘at their disposal’.  It is unlikely that the acceptance of ‘dual use’ will continue for new Environmental Schemes in the new CAP scheme.

Double Funding
Claimants with land subject to ELS or OELS schemes which pre-date January 2012 should have been informed by Natural England if there payment is to be reduced. If your scheme is subject to a reduction then you are given the option of either accepting this, or exiting the scheme without any fines or repayments. Natural England’s default response is for claimants to continue the scheme with a reduced payment, so should a claimant want to exit a scheme, NE will need to be informed.

If you still have concerns or queries over Greening requirements for next year’s BPS claims, please contact Dan Page who can input all your RPA field data into our tailor made spreadsheet to assist with your crop diversification and exemption calculations.

Tel: 01435 864020       Email: