Basic Payment Scheme - Greening

Greening is compulsory for all BPS claimants unless an exemption applies. The Greening requirement is based on all eligible hectares on your holding not simply the hectares claimed. Failure to comply could result in a 30% reduction in payment. The three elements of Greening are:

1. Maintenance of existing permanent grassland;

2. Crop diversification on arable land;

3. Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs).

Permanent Grassland – Is defined as land which has not been included in a crop rotation for five years or more. Reseeding consecutive grass leys does not break the five years cycle and the cropped area will revert to Permanent Grassland after five years – unless a different arable crop is grown during this period. DEFRA is keen to maintain the level of permanent grassland which was established in 2015 and if the level falls by more than 5%, farmers who have recently converted permanent grassland may be asked to reinstate it.

Crop Diversification – Is required on all land which qualifies as arable unless an exemption applies. For the purposes of BPS arable land includes land cultivated for crop production, land available for crop production but lying fallow and land under greenhouses or other cover as well as temporary grassland. Crop diversification has become commonly known as the “three crop rule”, however many claimants will be affected by the “two crop rule”. The table below sets out who will be required to comply with crop diversification and to what extent.

Arable Land

Crops Required

0-10 ha
(up to 25 acres)

Not required to comply.

10-30 ha
(25 - 74 acres)

At least two crops must be grown
The main crop must not exceed 75% of the total area.

30 ha +
(75 acres +)

At least three crops must be grown
The two main crops must not exceed 95% of the total area with the main crop not exceeding 75%.

The majority of farmers with a traditional crop rotation over their land are likely to fulfil the requirements of crop diversification without significant changes. However, those involved in Contract Farming Agreements are likely to see the biggest change in their management as the ability to “block crop” is removed. Also, livestock farmers who have grown maize or grass leys on rotation may well fall under the crop diversification rules. The two or three crops will need to be in the ground between 1st May and 30th June annually. If harvest has occurred prior to this date then stubble can be used as proof of crop diversification. For the purposes of crop diversification winter and spring crops will count as two different crops.

EFAs – All claimants must have EFAs where they have 15 hectares or more of arable land. EFAs must account for 5% of the arable area in 2016 and it is possible that in 2017 this area will increase to 7%. DEFRA has confirmed that the following features can be used to meet the EFA requirements in England:

  • Hedges;
  • Buffer strips;
  • Fallow land;
  • Catch crops, cover crops and nitrogen fixing crops.

Each of these features carries a different weighting and careful planning of areas is required. DEFRA have since added to the list so that since 2015, oilseed radish can now count (as part of a mix) as an EFA catch and/or cover crop, and some EFA features can now be up to 5 metres away from arable land, rather than immediately next to it.

Many of the Greening EFA options are similar to Environmental/Countryside Stewardship options. Under BPS, claimants cannot be paid twice for the same feature (known as double funding). This however only affects ELS Agreements starting after 1st January 2012 which comprises approximately 4,000 agreements. Natural England have notified those claimants affected and all agreements which began before 2012 will remain unaffected; therefore still able to utilise existing ELS options for EFA purposes.

Those ELS Agreements which began on or after 1st January 2012 will automatically have payment reductions applied to their agreement unless they:

1.Amend the agreement to add more options to avoid a payment reduction;

2.Accept the reduced payment;

3.Withdraw from ELS without penalty or having to repay monies received to date.

NB: All land certified as organic will be exempt from Greening rules and automatically qualify for the Greening aspect of the payment. However, these agreements will also be affected by “double funding” so contact us to consider your options.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of Greening, its impact on environmental schemes or if you require assistance in calculating areas, please contact Stuart Milsom on 01285 648107.