O’Neill announces changes to the 2015 Cross Compliance Verifiable Standards

editorial image

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced changes to the 2015 Cross Compliance Verifiable Standards.

Cross Compliance requires farmers receiving area based payments to comply with Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). These measures help to protect public, animal and plant health, environment and animal welfare.

They must also comply with Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) standards to protect water, minimum soil cover, prevention of soil erosion, maintenance of soil organic matter, retention of landscape features and avoiding the deterioration of habitats.

Minister O’Neill said: “Following on from consultation with stakeholders we have revisited the 2015 Cross Compliance Verifiable Standards and decided to introduce changes to GAEC 4: Minimum Soil Cover and GAEC 7: Retention of Landscape Features. The changes which will come into effect on 01 August 2015 are designed to provide greater flexibility for farmers while still providing protection for the environment.”

Revision of GAEC 4 removes the requirement for farmers to leave the residues of crops harvested after 01 November undisturbed until just before sowing the following spring. Instead, farmers harvesting crops after 1 November 2015 will have the option to either leave the stubble of the crop in the land or plough the land and plant a green cover crop. However, in circumstances where weather and soil conditions prevent this they will be required to put in place measures to limit soil erosion and nutrient loss. The revised standard also relaxes the rules in certain circumstances when practicing for and holding ploughing matches.

Revision of GAEC 7, which governs hedge cutting dates, introduces an option for farmers wishing to plant oilseed rape or reseed grasses or other herbaceous forage on arable land to apply for a derogation to permit hedge, tree or scrub cutting, trimming or laying between 15 and 31 August. Arable land in this context is only land that has been in arable crop or temporary grassland within the last five years.

Further information on Cross Compliance, the revised GAEC standards and how to apply for a derogation is available on the DARD website at www.dardni.gov.uk/index/grants-and-funding/cross-compliance.