THE UK Government has promised to cut red tape for farmers by ending compliance with EU Greening rules, with effect from 2021.

NFU Scotland is calling for the Scottish Government to make similar changes as part of its four-year ‘stability and simplicity’ plan.

The union stressed that if Scotland and the rest of the UK have diverging approaches to ‘greening’ requirements then it could put Scottish growers at a significant disadvantage.

“In our ‘Stability – steps to change’ document launched in March, we were crystal clear that actions to simplify and improve existing schemes are needed from 2021,” said NFUS president, Andrew McCornick. “That will provide both certainty for Scotland’s farmers and crofters and be a launch pad for more significant change from 2024.

“In our view, significant changes to greening requirements must form part of Scottish Government’s plans for delivery of its ‘Stability and simplicity’ agenda from 2021 to 2024.

“The Crop Diversification (three crop rule) and Permanent Grassland requirements must be removed from the current Greening rules and a full review of the operational requirements of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs), in conjunction with changes to mapping requirements, must be undertaken,” he said.

“That presents the opportunity to bring forward more pragmatic and practical measures, properly piloted, that will help Scottish agriculture meet Scotland’s ambitious climate change and biodiversity targets.”

Mr McCornick gave the example of reviewing EFA rules on nitrogen fixing crops (NFCs) and returning them to where they were in the first year of greening, which, he said, would see growing a marketable crop with proven environmental and biodiversity benefits become a viable option once again.

Mr McCornick concluded: “Scotland must adopt change. We cannot afford to have markedly diverging approaches to Greening either side of the Border.

“To do so could put Scottish growers at a significant disadvantage. Scottish farmers and crofters will play their part in meeting environmental challenges, but that must not come as a cost to the bottom line of their businesses.”

Direct payments to farmers in England will be phased out over seven years and replaced with a new system that rewards farmers for delivering public goods, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, and creating or restoring habitats for wildlife.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: The so-called greening requirements have added little to our environmental efforts.

“We believe that farmers will benefit from this reduced bureaucratic burden next year as we begin the move towards our new Environmental Land Management scheme which will deliver greater benefits for the environment.”