Scottish farmers will soon be informed of changes to greening rules under the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap).
NFU Scotland (NFUS) has hailed the changes, which come into effect for the 2018 scheme year, as a lobbying success.
The union has repeatedly raised concerns with Scottish Government about its interpretation of certain EU rules. It argues Scottish growers are at a disadvantage to farmers in other parts of the UK and Europe as a result of the Scottish Government’s greening rules.
Scottish Government has now confirmed to the union, in a letter, that changes to the greening rules will be made in time for next year.
Growers opting to leave land fallow as an Ecological Focus Area (EFA) will now be able to maintain field drains on the fallow land.
The current rules prohibit any drainage work being carried out on fallow ground, declared as EFA, between January 15 and July 15. From next year onwards, maintenance to drains on EFA will be allowed up until March 15 with “further flexibility for exceptional circumstances such as exceptional rainfall and flooding in the reamining period”.
Government said this was subject to a caveat that drainage “activities do not jeopardise the biodiversity objective of the EFA”.
The other key rules change is that farmers will now be allowed to establish EFA fallow on land claimed in the previous year as temporary grassland in year five, also known as TGRS 5.
NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “We thank the Scottish Government for taking on board the arguments made by NFU Scotland on these points.I firmly believe these common-sense improvements on greening rules will still deliver on all the environmental and biodiversity requirements set by greening but give farmers greater flexibility on how they manage EFA fallow land.”