Farming News - EU to ban pesticides from EFAs

EU to ban pesticides from EFAs

15 Jun 2017
Frontdesk / Arable

On Wednesday, MEPs narrowly voted to prevent the use of pesticides in Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) under new Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) rules. The new rules come into force in January next year.

To qualify for CAP payments, farmers with more than 15 hectares of arable land must designate at least 5% of their land as EFA. They must cultivate this land with nature in mind, promoting biodiversity by establishing field margins, hedgerows, buffer strips and trees.

The vote means pesticide use will no longer be allowed on nitrogen-fixing crops, fallow, cover and catch crops that are counted as EFA. However, the exact rules are yet to be set out by EU legislators.

The proposals were initially tabled by the EU Commission in February. Efforts to block the new legislation in the Parliament by members of the Agriculture Committee (including UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew) fell short by 13 votes on Wednesday.

Reacting to the vote, land agents Strutt & Parker said farmers need to think carefully about how best to meet their 2018 Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements.

Ed Hutley, farm consultant at Strutt & Parker’s St Albans office commented, “It is vital that farmers are given clarity on exactly how the rules will be implemented with some urgency. People are currently looking at next year’s cropping plans and will need to know if adjustments are necessary to ensure they can meet their 5% EFA requirement when it comes to completing their 2018 Basic Payment Scheme application.
“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.
Mr Hutley warned that farmers with CSS agreements face the added complication of double funding rules, which prevent farmers from being paid twice for the same activity. “Farmers with Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) agreements preceding January 2012 were able to use relevant options in their ELS agreements to count towards their greening obligations without any changes to payments,” he said. “However, these five year agreements have now all come to an end and anyone in the new CSS will be affected by the double-funding rules, which mean that if CSS options are used for EFA then the CSS payment is slashed.
“Anyone in, or currently considering, a CSS agreement needs to consider how much hedge and buffer strips the farm has and be prepared to either fallow more areas for EFA or grow catch/cover crops. It is not a reason to avoid CSS, but it does need consideration. The answer may well be a catch crop from August to 1 October prior to late sown wheat or winter beans.”

Welcoming the result of Wednesday’s vote, Professor Joop C. van Lenteren, an Entomologist and former President of the International Organisation for Biological Control said, “Today, the EP voted for not spraying pesticides in EFAs, which is a very important decision for saving and improving biodiversity and a step in the [right] direction for sustainable agriculture. It is now well documented that there is a strong relationship between the amount of pesticides used and the reduction in biodiversity. The fact that EFAs will be kept free of pesticide sprays will help to maintain and restore biodiversity.”

Henriette Christensen, a senior policy advisor at the Pesticide Action Network, aldo commented, “The EP refusal to undermine EFAs by allowing pesticides use is a small but welcome victory for common sense, biodiversity and the wider environment. But, in truth, much more must be done on the road to sustainable agriculture.

“PAN Europe now looks forward to pressurising the European Commission, Council and the Member States to fully implement the Sustainable Use Directive on pesticides so both human health and the environment can get rid of improper and excessive use of pesticides.  This can be achieved through rigorous efforts across the entire agricultural and forest sectors to achieve IPM as standard practice, as now foreseen in the EU legislation.”