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BPS 2020 Update

Following the announcement in March 2020 stating that the RPA would be relaxing the Crop Diversification Rule for the 2020 BPS, further guidance has now been published. 

The Government is currently progressing plans to remove the crop diversification rule (the two or three crop rule) for all farms due to extreme wet weather experience in 2019 and 2020. Removal of this rule means that you will not be penalised for being unable to plant the required combination of arable crops. The Legislation will be effective once it has been approved by Parliament.

Applications must still be completed either online or via the paper application (BP5). All arable land must still be declared using all appropriate crop codes. Once the applications are processed and Parliament has agreed to the changes, the crop diversification rules will not be applied to determine eligibility for the BPS greening payment. You must still meet the rest of the greening rules as follows: 

  1. Maintain at least 5% equivalent area of ecological focus area if you have more than 15ha of arable land
  2. Follow the rules for the management of permanent grassland

The Government further announced that where the extreme wet weather has prevented you from planting crops on your land, then this can be treated as fallow land. You will be exempt from the crop diversification requirements if more than 75% of your arable land is made up of fallow, temporary grass and leguminous crops. The exemption may also apply if more than 75% of the claimable agricultural area is permanent or temporary grass. This excludes woodland and ineligible areas. Further guidance on fallow management requirements and meeting crop diversification requirements can be found on page 38 of Basic Payment Scheme: rules for 2019. Please note the fallow land referred to here is different to EFA fallow land which has a different fallow period and more restrictive management rules (page 58 for EFA fallow land). 

The following options are also available to meet your 2020 crop diversification requirement: 

  1. Land left uncropped can be managed to count as fallow for crop diversification requirements. Fallow and temporary grass each count as arable crops. 
  2. Use spring cropping to meet crop diversification rules – spring and winter varieties count as different crops independent of their sowing date. 
  3. Failed crops – these can be counted as the crop originally established or be managed to count as fallow land. Supporting evidence will be required if it is no longer possible to identify the crop that was in the field. 

Managing fallow land for crop diversification 

When using fallow land to count towards your crop diversification requirements, it must be present from 1st May to 30th June. During this period you can undertake the following: 

  • Application of plant protection products
  • Drainage work including mole draining
  • Sowing of wild bird seed mixes/nectar sources/ pollen sources
  • Cultivate to control weeds
  • Topping of green cover or previous crop residue

During this period you must not undertake the following: 

  • Carry out any form of production including sowing, harvesting or grazing. 
  • Plough or cultivate the ground unless controlling weeds
  • Apply fertilisers or farmyard manure expect where you have sown wild bird seed mixes/nectar sources/ pollen sources on land within a Countryside Stewardship Agreement and these activities are permitted within that agreement. 

Using the fallow land as EFA fallow land has more restrictive management rules which are to be followed during the period of 1st January to 30th June. 

Force majeure and exceptional circumstances

Where bad weather or flooding prevents farmers from meeting the crop diversification requirements, it is possible to claim force majeure. Force majeure is abnormal and unforeseeable circumstances outside of the farmer’s control, the consequences of which, in spite of the exercise of all due care, could not have been avoided without excessive sacrifice. 

Spring cropping is an option available where you have been unable to plant winter crops. A force majeure request would not be considered until later in spring 2020. The full impact of the adverse weather conditions and final impact on spring cropping will then be assessed. If you are unable to establish spring crops, evidence should be collected to support this.