Good news for farmers – fallowing of arable land is no longer mandatory

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The fallowing of arable land has been highly controversial from the beginning among farmers, who demanded that this obligation be waived. Due to numerous requests from member states and pressure from farmers, the European Commission decided to introduce a derogation from GAEC 8 in 2024, regarding the requirement to set aside 4 percent of arable land for non-productive areas or facilities (fallowing).The regulation on this matter entered into force on February 14, 2024, and will apply retroactively from January 1 for one year, i.e. until December 31, 2024.

Fallowing of arable land – changes introduced

Under the derogation, according to the adopted regulation, it is possible to allocate an area of 4 percent. of its arable land to:

  • non-productive areas or elements, including fallow land;
  • faba bean plants;
  • intercrops;

Which must be grown without the use of pesticides.

The derogation is temporary and applies to the current year. This is a result of the difficult situation faced by agricultural producers due to the war in Ukraine and the occurrence of unfavorable weather conditions. The variance enhances the use of arable land while providing environmental benefits.

The regulation adopted by the European Commission allows member states to modify ecoprograms supporting non-productive areas to include an alternative baseline under GAEC 8 conditionality.

Member states that wish to apply the derogation at the national level must notify the European Commission within 15 days of the regulation’s entry into force to allow farmers to be informed of the changes as soon as possible.

Fallowing of arable land in the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027

In order to receive support under the Common Agricultural Policy(CAP), farmers must comply with an expanded set of nine environmentally and climate beneficial standards (conditionality). Fallowing obligation of 4 percent. arable land is part of the requirements of GAEC 8 within the framework of conditionality, which is specified in the provisions of Regulation (EU) No. 2021/2115. Both this standard and conditionality are mandatory in member countries. The GAEC 8 standard was introduced into the Polish legal order in the Strategic Plan of the Common Agricultural Policy for 2023-2027.

The GAEC 8 standard covers, among other things. The obligation to allocate a certain percentage of arable land to non-productive areas and elements. According to the CAP Strategic Plan for 2023-2027 and the national regulation on standards and detailed conditions for their application, the requirement to allocate 4 percent of the into non-productive areas or facilities can be implemented not only as fallow land, but also through the following that meet certain criteria: ditches, ponds, mid-field balks and buffer zones, hedgerows, strips of wooded land, linear tree canopies, individual trees, mid-field coppices and strips of land along forest edges.

The GAEC 8 standard on farms with more than 10 hectares of arable land imposes an allocation:

  • At least 4 percent. The area of such land into non-productive areas or facilities that meet certain conditions or
  • At least 3 percent. The area of arable land into non-productive areas or facilities where at least 4 percent. of arable land area include stubble or winter intercrops or undersowns or bean crops that meet certain conditions, including cultivation without the use of plant protection products.

No pesticides may be applied to fallow land and no agricultural production, including grazing and mowing, may be carried out between January 1 and July 31. In the case of fallow land with melliferous plants (specific plant species, as defined by national legislation), the use of plant protection products is prohibited, and agricultural production, including grazing and mowing, excluding apiaries, may not be carried out from January 1 to August 31.

Farms are excluded from the obligation to allocate a minimum share of arable land to non-productive areas or facilities:

  • In which more than 75 percent. the area of arable land is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous fodder crops, or fallow, or used for the cultivation of faba bean crops, or
  • In which more than 75 percent. of the agricultural area is permanent grassland or is used for the production of grasses or other herbaceous forage crops, or
  • With an arable land area of less than 10 hectares.

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