The European Parliament’s approval last month of European Commission proposals to simplify the CAP greening measures, means plant protection products can no longer be used on Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). The UK pulse industry has responded with incredulity.
The decision, effective from June 16th, will affect EFA’s sown to catch crops, green cover or nitrogen-fixing crops and strips of land along forest edges. It is not clear yet how this will be implemented in the UK on the 5% of land that has to be entered into an EFA to qualify for wider CAP support.
“This EU decision is both surprising and disappointing in equal measure as it will have a negative impact on the area of pulses grown in the UK,” comments Roger Vickers, chief executive of the Processors and Growers Research Organisation. “Pulses are an integral part of the UK farmer’s rotation, and as well as their many, many benefits in their own right, they also impact positively on resultant crops in terms of weed pressure and soil health.”
Both the PGRO and the British Edible Pulse Association point out that the EFA system is supposed to encourage cropping diversity, with flowering pulse crops attractive to pollinating insects and supporting a wide range of bird life. They add that pulses are a relatively low input crop, so help to reduce the load on the environment.
“All these environmental and other benefits are surely why the pulses were included in the EFA rules in the first instance, so this decision seems perverse to say the least,” note the two bodies. “It would be enormously disappointing if growers of pulses were to reduce their cropping area because of a negative message on EFA rules from the EU, when the fundamental reasons and benefits for pulse production remain the same.”
EU farm body Copa Cogeca say the measure is not a real simplification of the current rules. “But we hope that member states will implement the decision in the best possible manner to enable farmers and their co-operatives to get on with their work”.
“The majority of our clients use peas or beans to meet their EFA requirements, but without pesticides their viability as break crop will be questionable,” notes Strutt & Parker farm consultant Ed Hutley. “This means farmers will instead look to maximise any other fallow, buffer strips and hedges to use as EFA.”