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Largest arable farms could abandon basic payment

Some large-scale arable farmers may consider abandoning the new basic-payment scheme because of the restrictions it will place on cropping, experts have said.
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Rural property specialists Strutt and Parker said the three-crop rule and other diversification requirements of the new CAP meant farmers specialising in one crop would see the rules as a hindrance to profits.

Crop rotation

The claims came as NFU president Peter Kendall called on the European Commission to scrap the three-crop rule, branding it ‘utter madness’.

 

The rule, which will come into force from January 1, 2015, will require farmers with more than 20 hectares (50 acres) of land to grow at least two crops and those with more than 30ha (75 acres) to grow at least three crops.

 

Mr Kendall said: “By far, most of those farmers practise crop rotation or have built up sustainable continuous cropping systems.

 

“They have built their businesses to generate efficiencies, moving towards block cropping, contract farming arrangements and share farming agreements. This rule undermines much of those efforts.”

 

George Chichester, partner at Strutt and Parker, said abandoning the basic payment scheme was something the firm was beginning to talk to clients about.

 

He said: “To take 5 per cent of land out of production is stacking up to say it might not be worth doing. The next stage is to say whether it is actually worth the hassle of the whole regime.

 

“When payments were worth £100/acre that is one thing, but if it is £80/acre and 5 per cent out of production, and you have to make sure you are not within two metres of a hedge, some farmers might think it is not worth the hassle.”

 

The NFU claimed there was a discussion about farmers sacrificing 30 per cent of the scheme given for fulfilling greening requirement.

Greening element

The union’s CAP adviser Gail Soutar said it was important for farmers hoping to claim the new basic payment to remember the greening element was mandatory.

 

But Ms Soutar said farmers needed more clarification from Defra about the options and was hoping to receive information before the end of March.

 


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Impact on growers

ARABLE fears about the basic payment scheme were echoed in the horticulture sector.

 

NFU horticulture chair Sarah Dawson said under the three-crop rule, vegetables such as sprouts, cauliflowers and cabbages have been listed as the same species, which meant farmers growing these crops would have to grow other ones which may have ‘no market demand’.

 

She said there could be parts of the sector forced to abandon the basic payment scheme, and the rule was ‘anti-competitive’.

 

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