FARM groups in the county have welcomed Government plans to scrap EU greening requirements for direct payments from 2021.

Defra Secretary George Eustice said the greening measures, which require farmers to carry out certain actions to qualify for additional payments, have delivered little for the environment.

In 2017, a European Court of Auditors Special Report on greening found the measures were unlikely to improve the Common Agricultural Policy’s environmental and climate performance, with a change in farming practices recorded on just five percent of EU farmland.

The changes planned by the UK Government will not affect the overall payments received by farmers as the money will be added to entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

This will be welcome news for many who have struggled in recent years to balance cropping requirements of their business with the requirement to declare EFA areas on their annual submission.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “The so-called greening requirements have added little to our environmental efforts. We believe that farmers will benefit from this reduced bureaucratic burden next year as we begin the move towards our new Environmental Land Management scheme which will deliver greater benefits for the environment.”

Alistair Mackintosh, west Cumbrian beef and sheep farmer and National Farmers Union (NFU) Cumbrian council delegate said: “This is welcome news for our arable guys, who will be most affected. The NFU has been seeking clarification of the greening rules for the 2021 scheme for months now, particularly around the position on the crop diversification rules, so that farmers can plan their cropping for harvest 2021."

Craig Brough Head of Land Agency at Hopes Auction company agrees with these Mr Eustice, commenting “The greening requirements have added very little environmental gains, often forcing short term decisions to comply with the schemes rules, we welcome these simplifications to the scheme as the process for its phasing out begins”

He added: "We still await further developments under the Agriculture Bill and how future schemes are to be administered, July 31 see the conclusion of the consultation on the future Environmental Land Management scheme, with detail on plans for the agricultural transition period expected to be set out in Autumn 2020."

TFA chief executive George Dunn described the move as‘good news’.“Greening has always been of questionable benefit and has caused major compliance issues for farmers. As English farmers plan cropping for next year, it is good to know greening will no longer apply.”

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said:“Although the NFU has never been critical of the environmental intent of the crop diversification requirements, we have always been concerned that this EU-legacy scheme has never been applied with the flexibility needed to suit varying weather and farming situations in Britain. I am hopeful that the changes to greening rules will remove some of the complexities farmers face in interacting with multiple scheme rules. At the same time, I am confident that farmers will use experiences of greening to develop their existing approaches to land management and build on their invaluable role working to protect and enhance the environment as we prepare for the introduction of a new domestic agricultural policy and Environmental Land Management schemes."

In March this year, NFU President Minette Batters welcomed a derogation for farmers in England from the greening three-crop rule after months of relentless heavy rain, waterlogging and flooding of fields leaving them unable to plant and establish crops for 2020.