Aside from the introduction of greening measures, one of the most significant changes in the new direct payment regime touches on what constitutes agricultural activity. Under the Single Payment Scheme, agricultural activity was not only producing crops and keeping animals etc., but also simply maintaining the land in good agricultural and environmental condition. This definition has now been dropped.
It has been replaced with what might turn out to be a more workable definition, particularly for field veg. and potato growers and for those who provide land to them for short-term cropping.
The Basic Payment Scheme defines agricultural activity as, among other things, "maintaining an agricultural area in a state which makes it suitable for grazing or cultivation without preparatory action going beyond usual agricultural methods and machineries".
A framework will now be drawn up by the European Commission. Based on that framework, Defra will fix criteria for the application of the definition here in England. So we are not home and dry yet; we need a pragmatic set of criteria from the Commission and the government that reflect the realities of rotational cropping, seasonal grazing and the role of long-term land managers.
If you have any questions about the implications of the current reform, speak to your usual Roythornes contact or contact Julie Robinson on 01775 842618.