A call for major changes to be made to crop diversification rules in the European Commission’s forthcoming review of common agricultural policy greening measures was made earlier this week by Scotland’s rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead.
However NFU Scotland HAVE called on the minister to “put his own house in order” before placing all the blame on Brussels.
Speaking shortly after EU officials had issued a final rejection of plans put forward by the Scottish Government for “equivalence measures”, Lochhead said that the current three crop rule “did not work for Scotland” and that it had been a major contributor to the drop in barley production seen this year.
“The workable alternatives put forward by the Scottish Government are based on advice from Scottish environmental organisations and research institutes that the ecological benefits would be the same as or even better than Europe’s standard crop diversification measures,” said Lochhead.
“It is bitterly disappointing that this has not been taken on board by the European Commission, which continues to insist on revisions that are so extensive they make our proposals virtually unworkable.”
Lochhead also revealed further clarification of details surrounding requirements for ecological focus areas (EFAs). He said that farmers would not have to plough EFA green cover for it to count as greening - and that other methods of incorporation could be acceptable. He also said that field margins for EFA nitrogen fixing crops would only be required around field boundaries, rather than around each crop.
“Greening must meet Scottish needs which is why we rightly based our greening policies – which were announced last year – on our work with NFUS and environmental interest groups,” he said.
But NFUS chief executive Scott Walker said that while some of the changes announced would benefit both farmers and the environment, even more could be done on the home front to improve the situation.
“Instead of deflecting the argument to the European Commission’s forthcoming review of greening, our cabinet secretary should look at the choices he has made and stop the unnecessary gold-plated approach he continues to take,” said Walker.
“Either he thinks Scottish farms are green and delivering more than the rest of Europe - or is he intent on ramping up the greening rules on our farmers regardless.”