Increased flexibility on greening measures has been announced by Brussels and is due to come into force at the end of the year.
Farmers with more than 75% of their land in grass, herbaceous forage, leguminous crops or fallow may be exempted from crop diversification and Ecological Focus Areas (EFA), although analysis by the Scottish Government suggests that this will affect only a small number of growers.
A new 1.5 times EFA weighting factor is also being introduced for land lying fallow for melliferous – pollen and nectar-rich – species of plants.
The weighting factor for EFA nitrogen-fixing crops is to be increased from 0.7 to 1.0, making it the same as for EFA fallow. However detailed rules on when these would have to be planted and on their management, have not been published.
These changes are in addition to previously announced changes for 2018 including the new EFA hedges option and the ability to do some drainage work during the EFA fallow period.
NFU Scotland welcomed the moves but said there were legal questions about applying the new rules in advance of their official publication by the European Commission.