FARMERS will no longer be required to comply with complex rules around crop diversification, Ecological Focus Areas and greening permanent grassland, following the Government announcement of the removal of greening rules from the direct payments regime for 2021.

The change means 30 per cent of the current overall BPS payment associated with these conditions will be reallocated to the BPS entitlements.

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. This latest announcement means that the three-crop rule will be removed from BPS rules permanently in 2021.

NFU vice-president Tom Bradshaw said: “The NFU has been seeking clarification of the greening rules for the 2021 scheme for many months, particularly around the position on the crop diversification rules, so that our members can plan their cropping for harvest 2021.

“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."

The CLA has also welcomed the news to reduce administrative burdens on farmers.

Mark Bridgeman, CLA president, said: “Plans to reduce administrative burdens on the remaining Basic Payment Scheme is encouraging news for farmers. For too long, we have had to accept well-intentioned but impractical requirements that have not delivered for the environment.

“The move to a system of payments for public goods is an opportunity to change the relationship between farmers and government. It must provide real environmental delivery that works with our varied farming systems. The flagship Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme in England has the potential to become a world-leading land management policy.

“However, the new ELM programme is only one part of future agriculture policy and will not be available until 2024. Reducing direct payments, even if administration is also reduced, will still have an impact on farming businesses if the profile of cuts is too steep before ELM is widely available.”