‘Start planning now for the new greening rules’

First published in Farming Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

ADVISERS from the Yorkshire Farming and Wildlife Partnership (YFWP) are between them celebrating more than 50 years of working with the county’s farmers and landowners.

Phil Lyth, Ann Hanson, Claire Foster and Karen Stanley worked for the Yorkshire branch of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) until FWAG nationally went into liquidation.

They launched the partnership in late 2011 and have been kept busy with a variety of work, ranging from setting up Environmental Stewardship schemes and securing grant funding for individual farmers, to working on projects alongside organisations such as Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale AONB.

One such scheme is the Upper Aire Habitat and Land Management Improvement Project, which aims to improve the water quality of the River Aire and six tributaries, which are at risk from sedimentation due to bank erosion and soil run-off.

Farmers in the catchment area from Malham to Keighley can receive a free visit from a YFWP adviser to identify any farm issues, offer practical solutions and, in some cases, help access capital grant funding. Phil Lyth, lead adviser for the project, said: “More than 40 farmers have got involved with the project so far, but at the moment funding is only guaranteed until March 2015, so please contact us sooner rather than later if you are interested.”

An issue affecting all farmers is the onset of the new CAP greening rules.

A number of facts have still to be confirmed by Defra, but the partnership is urging farmers to start planning now. Claire Foster said: “The rules will take effect for the 2015 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claim year so it is imperative that farmers plan their crop rotations and Ecological Focus Areas now in time for the 2014 drilling season.

“We can provide a short advisory visit to help farmers work through the implications on their farms.

“The rules will not just affect arable farmers.

Temporary grass is defined as arable land under the BPS so dairy farmers in particular will also need to check whether they are subject to crop diversification and EFA requirements.”

Some changes to cross compliance will be made from 2015. Notably, the Soil Protection Review will be removed, and replaced with three new soil management rules relating to soil cover, organic matter and erosion risk.

Karen Stanley said: “From 2015 the booklet is being scrapped, but farmers will need to demonstrate good soil management through the new GAECs four to six.

“Cross-compliance can be a minefield but we are able to go through the RPA inspection guidance with farmers and check that everything is in order.”

The advisers are also keeping up to speed with the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS), which replaces Environmental Stewardship in 2015. Existing ELS (including organic and uplands) and HLS agreements will run to the end of their term, but farmers and landowners may find they cannot go straight into a NELMS agreement after their current scheme expires.

Ann Hanson said: “Natural England has released draft targeting maps showing where they plan to focus NELMS, for priorities such as farmland birds, biodiversity, woodland creation, flood alleviation and water quality. The maps are undergoing local validation and can be viewed on the Natural England website.”

Contact details: Phil Lyth, 07713-333170; Ann Hanson, 07713-333206; Claire Foster, 07827-975703; Karen Stanley 07713-333185. See also farmingandwildlife.net.

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