DEFRA has followed the Scottish Government's lead and moved to relax the three crop rule to allow English farmers to recover from the recent flooding.

The Crop Diversification rule, which was copied straight across from EU law when the UK left the EU on January 31, requires farmers managing more than 30 hectares of arable land to grow at least three different crops on that land. Farmers with smaller land-holdings are also subject to crop diversification requirements.

With large swathes of farmland in England under floodwater for most of February, the UK government is now pursuing plans through Parliament to relax this rule for all farmers for 2020 so those who are unable to access their flooded land to plant spring crops over the coming weeks and months will not be unfairly penalised. The amendment will be made for Parliament’s approval as soon as possible.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “I have seen first-hand how devastating the recent floods have been to people and communities.

“The Three Crop Rule is not practical in extreme weather events when farmers need to plan their spring cropping. Applying a blanket derogation for this year is the best way to reduce bureaucracy and leave farmers free to get on with farming.

“I’m also aware that the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) is causing other difficulties for the farming community. The Rural Payments Agency is working tirelessly to ensure farmers have access to all the guidance they need and we are exploring all options to ensure the right support is available in the coming weeks and months."

Mr Eustice also announced that a £6 million pot of funding to help farmers recover from the flooding would be provided through a further extension to the Farming Recovery Fund, with support available to affected farmers in parts of East and North Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Herefordshire.

Farmers in eligible areas can claim grants of between £500 and £25,000 to cover a number of uninsurable repair costs, such as the re-cultivation of farmland, including re-seeding, replanting cover crops and alleviating soil compaction.

The Farming Recovery Fund was originally opened to support the recovery from the June and July 2019 floods in North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and was then extended to cover the further flooding in parts of South Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and the Midlands in November 2019. This latest announcement brings the total funding that the government has made available for farmers to recover from exceptional flooding, during 2019 and the first two months of 2020, up to £10 million.

Farmers who have been affected by recent flooding and who have already repaired damage caused by the flooding have been advised to keep records of all relevant evidence, including receipts and before and after photos, in order to help the RPA process eligible applications promptly. When the amendment to the three-crop rule has been made and approved by Parliament, English farmers will be notified.