Linking CAP payments to crop diversity represents a growth opportunity for farmers, according to anaerobic digestion (AD) specialist EnviTec Biogas UK.
Under the new rules, 30 per cent of direct payments will depend on demonstrating environmentally-friendly farming practices – including crop diversification.
Full details are yet to emerge, but “greening” the CAP is likely to include a requirement for farms with an arable area of between 10 hectares and 30 hectares to grow at least two crops, with no crop covering more than 80 per cent of the land.
Farms with arable areas larger than 30 hectares would have to grow at least three crops, with the main crop on no more than 75 per cent of the arable land and the two main crops covering less than 95 per cent of the land.
Modelling carried out by Dutch researchers predicts that greening the CAP will result in increased farm incomes in extensive farming areas of the EU – especially grazing areas – while incomes would decrease in intensive arable areas.
But EnviTec Biogas, which plans, builds and services farm-scale AD plants on farms across the UK, said intensive arable areas in this country should use greening as a springboard for revenue growth.
Mike McLaughlin, managing director at EnviTec Biogas, said: “It’s an opportunity for growth, not a threat to it.
“If you are essentially being forced to grow a variety of crops, it seems crazy to me that you would diversify into output that is just as vulnerable to the vagaries of the commodity markets and the supermarkets.
“Break crops can be introduced that not only restore soil condition but that can also feed an AD unit – and if you have to introduce more crop types, growing feedstocks for an AD facility makes a lot of sense.
“The heat and electricity can be used by the business, and the surplus energy can be exported to the grid under the Feed in Tariffs (FiTs).”
The digestate produced at the end of the process is applied to the land as an organic fertiliser, significantly reducing chemical fertiliser costs, Mr McLaughlin said.
Mr McLaughlin added: “Surely it would make sense to investigate receiving really significant income from the FiTs and other incentives that are set in the long term.
Cash from AD allows for better business planning and the stability it brings helps lever in funding for further capital investment.”