James Forsyth’s claims in the Daily Mail on 9 November that Environment Secretary Liz Truss wants to stop the European Commission from “telling British farmers what they can grow ” through “a Commission edict – the three crop rule”.
This is puzzling on at least two counts.
First, the European Commission cannot issue “edicts” but only propose new EU legislation. It is elected MEPs and elected EU government ministers who scrutinise these proposals and ultimately decide whether to amend, adopt or reject them.
Second, the UK voted last December for the very measure Mr Forsyth is writing about.
The “three crop rule” – or in other words crop diversification – was adopted unanimously by EU agricultural ministers in December 2013 as part of the latest package of CAP reforms.
The reforms address environmental concerns related to pressures that modern farming has put on water, soil, farmland habitats and related biodiversity, as well as contributing to tackling climate change. Monoculture, for example, reduces soil fertility and increases demand for fertilisers and plant protection products, which in turn can lead to water pollution and harm biodiversity.
The new obligations will not be required of all farmers. Only farms with more than 30 hectares of arable land will need to grow three crops. Farm of more than 10 hectares will be required to grow two crops and small farms will be excluded from all “greening” requirements.