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08/10/14 15:23

Greening update

New Common Agricultural Policy will be ‘greenest ever’.

The new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will deliver more environmental benefits than ever before, according to Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Mr Lochhead made the assurance as he gave a further update on how the new Greening measures will be implemented in Scotland.

Greening measures clarified today include:

• Under cross compliance, or Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GEAC) requirements in Scotland, farmers must not plough or apply fertiliser or pesticides (except for spot-treatment for injurious weeds) within two metres of the centre line of a hedge or the top of the bank of a watercourse/ water body. The Scottish Government has clarified the new GAEC rules on cultivation next to hedges will only come into force for crops sown after January 1, 2015
• A mandatory European one-month extension to the no-cutting period for hedges during the bird nesting season, which will now run from March 1 to August 31.
• A European requirement that farmers must not burn stubble except for plant health purposes – a practice that is no longer common in Scotland
• A significant reduction in the number of new cross compliance requirements from Europe. As a result, the overall number of Scottish GAEC requirements will reduce from 21 to seven
• Fallow for EFA purposes must be set aside between 15 January to 15 July
• Spring cereal crop undersown with grass will count under the Catch Crops category of Ecological Focus Areas – an important point for many livestock producers with some arable area
• The requirement to grow more than one Nitrogen Fixing Crop if it is to count as Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) will apply from 2016.

The Cabinet Secretary also announced the Scottish Government will commission independent research into farming and the environment in Scotland. A short-term scientific study will, alongside the views of stakeholders, inform future Scottish Government decisions on Greening while a longer-term monitoring project will look at the wider impacts of Greening on the environment and agriculture.

Mr Lochhead said:

“Let there be no doubt that the new Common Agricultural Policy will be the greenest ever. Scotland’s magnificent natural environment underpins our £14 billion food and drink industry so it is in all our interests to protect and enhance what we have.

“In addition, the EU is clear that the CAP must be greened in return for having been protected from even bigger budget cuts. European regulations and decisions taken here in Scotland, for example on buffer strips, will undoubtedly deliver biodiversity benefits. But they also add complexity, for example in Ecological Focus Areas where a complex set of coefficients and weightings apply.

“I have listened carefully to farmers’ concerns about the practical difficulties of implementing all of these new greening measures straight away. As such, the requirement to grow more than one Nitrogen Fixing Crop if it is to count as EFA will now come into effect in 2016.

“The new CAP will deliver more environmental benefits than ever before. The new Greening measures will provide more habitat for terrestrial bird populations and more food for pollinators like bees which, importantly, help sustain arable crops like oil seed rape and field beans and contribute tens of millions of pounds every year to the Scottish economy.

“I recognise that we are entering uncharted territory with Greening, which is why I had already pushed for a full EU review of the new policy. Now the new Commissioner-designate has made it clear that simplification is at the top of his agenda, including for Greening, and I will be pressing him for early action.

“In the meantime, the Scottish Government will commission an independent study into farming and the environment which will, alongside the views of stakeholders and the developments at EU level, inform future Scottish Government decisions on Greening. We have already committed to looking at using the ‘equivalence’ rules to improve Greening in Scotland from 2016. Armed with this study, we can take stock of the first season under the new rules and see whether further improvements are possible, subject to the EU’s agreement where appropriate.

“This will be in addition to a longer-term monitoring project which will look at the wider impacts of Greening on the agriculture and environment.”

Notes to editors

More information on CAP is available from the Scottish Government website: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/CAP

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