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Combinable Crops Chairman's Blog - 16 March 2020

NFU Scotland has welcomed the announcement that following an extended period of wet weather the Scottish government has approved a derogation for Crop Diversification(two/three crop rule) in 2020 but NFU Scotland Combinable Crops Chairman, Willie Thomson states why this rule is unsuitable for Scotland, no matter the weather.

With autumn plantings substantially down on the year and the cold, wet conditions working against ground preparation and planting, the window of opportunity to plant and establish spring crops in 2020 has been narrow and meeting the three-crop rule for many farmers has been almost impossible. The derogation from the three-crop requirement will make a difference to growers who have been unable to get onto waterlogged ground, but it is already looking for some parts of the country that fallow may be a more economic option than planting.

NFU Scotland has consistently opposed the need for the three-crop rule to apply in Scotland.  Designed to tackle monoculture in parts of Europe, the poorly conceived requirement for Scottish growers to plant three different crops to secure support payments has been exposed in difficult years like this.  

In the future, we want Scottish farmers to be able to plant crops that are economically viable and most likely to secure a market rather than being obligated to plant crops late in the season that will be unsuited to Scottish conditions and difficult to harvest.

The EU’s blunt Greening rules do not fit the profile of Scottish agriculture and so offer little by way of environmental gain but have added significant cost to many Scottish agricultural businesses and to Scottish Government in terms of inspections and compliance complexities.

NFU Scotland proposes the removal of the Crop Diversification and Permanent Grassland requirements from the current Greening rules from 2021. There is no monoculture issue to be addressed by the Crop Diversification rules in Scotland and the abundance of permanent grassland at a national level renders that Greening requirement completely unfit for purpose.

NFU Scotland proposes a full review of the operational requirements of EFAs must be undertaken to identify further practical improvements that deliver more environmental gains for less production cost and compliance risk.

Required ‘green’ outcomes – notably on climate change and biodiversity – need to work within agricultural systems rather than prescriptive dates that compromise food production but does little or nothing in terms of environmental benefits.

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