Commodity Watch - Greening

Saturday, 4 October, 2014

Commodity Watch 

With 30% of future single farm payments dependent on meeting the ‘greening’ requirements it is very important that farmers have an understanding of the new rules and comply with them where relevant.

The starting point for everyone is to calculate how much arable land and permanent grassland you have on your holding in 2015.  It is very important to differentiate and understand that for the purposes of ‘Greening’ the measure used is ‘arable land farmed’ and not the actual area of arable crop being grown in 2015.  It should also be noted these new ‘greening’ conditions may impact on farmers in other sectors depending on their historic cropping pattern and not just the arable and horticulture sectors (for example a dairy farmer with whole crop or maize may trigger greening).  Knowing the cropping history of any land taken in conacre will also be necessary.

Arable land with an historic ‘AR’ code in any of the years 2010 -2014 or land used for arable cropping in 2015 will be classed as arable land for the purposes of this greening.  If in doubt this land classification can be checked out with DARD Orchard House. 

DARD have launched a Greening Calculator to help farmers plan to meet the greening requirements of Crop Diversification and Ecological Focus Areas.  However it must be noted that any results generated will depend entirely on the accuracy of the input data.

The ‘Greening’ requirement will introduce three components going forward under the headings permanent grassland, crop diversification and ecological focus areas.  (EFAs)

Permanent Grassland

Grassland that has not been cropped in the previous 5 years is defined as permanent and the overall area of permanent grassland must not decrease by more than 5%.  As permitted under EU rules, DARD will be applying this requirement at a regional Northern Ireland level rather than on an individual farm by farm basis.

Crop Diversification/Ecological Focus Areas


  • Farmers will be exempt from both of these requirements if (a) your holding (including conacre)  is either more than 75% grassland with the remaining 25% (arable land) not exceeding 30 hectares or (b) more than 75% of your arable land (including conacre) is used for the production of grasses/herbaceous forage.
  • Farms with less than 10 hectares of arable land will be exempt from the Crop Diversification requirement.
  • Farms with less than 15 hectares of arable land will be exempt from the Ecological Focus Area requirement.
  • Grass (temporary) counts as a crop type – provided it is on arable land and is not permanent grassland.
  • Winter and spring varieties count as separate crop types
  • The crop must be present (or its stubble/residue present to enable the original crop to be identified) during the entire period of 1 June to 31 July each year.

Ecological Focus Area (EFA’s)

EFA’s rules continue to raise more questions, for example the industry awaits definitions for ‘fallow land’ and ‘hedges’.  For farmers trying to calculate this requirement, this is where it has the potential to get complicated and not all the detail is known at present. 

  • EFA applies to farms with more than 15ha of arable land.
  • 5% of arable land must be used to satisfy the EFA requirement starting on 1st January 2015
  • Features and areas that can be used as EFA are:
  1. Land lying fallow;
  2. Landscape features required to be retained under cross compliance (hedges, ditches, stone walls, earthbanks and archaeological features);
  3. Areas of agro-forestry;
  4. Areas with short rotation coppice with no use of mineral fertiliser, plant protection products are not permitted beyond the end of the second growing season post planting;
  5. Afforested areas which were used to claim SFP in 2008; and Areas with nitrogen fixing crops.

An EU agreed matrix is then used to convert this into equivalent EFA areas.

In general, we are still extremely concerned by the level of understanding on the details and implications of greening.  DARD recently hosted a series of three meetings throughout Northern Ireland on this specific issue but of the estimated minimum of 1,500 farm businesses likely to have a specific greening requirement only around 500 of these attended these meetings.  It was also clear subsequently that the majority of those who attended were simply overwhelmed with the intense detailed requirements which they are expected to meet.

Our concerns are also shared by all of the EU’s major farming organisations on how these ‘greening’ requirements under the reformed CAP are to be implemented and while it was recognised that greening was not going to be delayed and would be introduced, it was emphasised that the review planned by the EU Commission in 2017 had to take a serious look at its complexity and what it really delivered.  Furthermore, all of these farming organisations are in full agreement that farmers should not be penalised until the details around greening are completely finalised and properly communicated to and understood by farmers. 

Much more work still needs to be done on greening and we will be meeting with the DARD Minister over the next few weeks to highlight farmers’ genuine concerns on this important matter.

Land Availability for Crop Production

It is reported that access to land in 2015 remains problematic on the ground for the potato industry in particular with no pragmatic or workable solution as yet agreed with the industry and government.  The UFU have over recent months continually called on DARD to be pragmatic and help resolve these genuine difficulties.

Arable Conferences

Both the UFU Seeds & Cereal and Potato Policy Committees are looking positively to the future and are progressing plans in partnership with UAS, CAFRE and AFBI to deliver a Potato Conference on Wednesday 3rd December 2014 and an Arable Conference on Tuesday 13th January 2015 both at CAFRE Greenmount.  Details of both conferences will be announced over the coming weeks.