The prolonged rainfall period over the last six weeks has led to concerns among farmers about being able to fulfil greening requirements for BPS claims where planned crops have not been able to be established.
Ecological Focus Area (EFA) cover crops for BPS 2019 must have been established by October 1, according to the BPS rules. NFU senior adviser – Basic Payment Scheme, Richard Wordsworth said: “Some farmers have struggled to establish these or they may have rotted and died in the ground.
“The BPS Greening rules state that there is the opportunity to nominate an alternative EFA option where there is a problem, but only if the farmer has a physical inspection. NFU has asked the RPA whether farmers should be notifying them if there is a problem with their 2019 EFA cover crop.
“In response, we have been told that where the farmer’s cover crops have failed to establish by October 1, they can tell the RPA about it and also the existing eligible EFA areas/lengths they wish to use instead under the notified area provisions. Remember, there are differing EFA values for different options in order to get to the 5 per cent EFA, so please read the rules carefully.”
Looking ahead to BPS 2020, RPA and Defra have said farmers need to assume that the BPS rules for 2020 will be largely the same as 2019, according to Mr Wordsworth.
“Regarding the crop diversification rules, which are also known as the ‘two- or three-crop rule’, if you are concerned about compliance, remember that uncropped arable land, referred to as fallow, can count as a crop if it will not be cropped this autumn or next spring.
“If you are struggling to get all your intended crops established this autumn, but have land that can be drilled in the spring, generally spring and winter varieties of the same eligible crop will count as separate crops under the crop diversification rules.
“There is no sowing date to determine a spring or a winter crop, but the different crops need to be there for the majority of the inspection period which is May 1 to June 30, 2020. It is worth checking the varieties that are intended to be sown for harvest 2020 against the UK National List to see if they are considered winter or spring - more details are in the BPS handbook.”
Mr Wordsworth urged farmers to reread EFA rules www.gov.uk/guidance/bps-2019 and the 2020 guidance when it comes out.