Most farmers are now familiar with the Soil Protection Review booklet that was part of the Cross Compliance requirements for the Single Payment Scheme. It was an important book – failure to give it to an RPA inspector within 30 minutes of an RPA inspection was likely to land you with a 3% fine of your Single Payment.
So, now that the majority of farmers have got familiar with the book it has been replaced with new rules under the Cross Compliance review for the Basic Payment Scheme!
The replacement “Soil Protection Standards” are a set of minimum rules which are outcome focused and require no paperwork. This means that more emphasis can be put on actually farming the land rather than keeping a paper log.
The new rules can be briefly summarised as follows:
- “Providing minimum soil cover” (GAEC 4) – All reasonable steps to protect soil by having a minimum soil cover must be taken unless there is an agronomic justification for not doing so. Minimum soil cover is to be provided by vegetative cover or crop stubbles. Agronomic reasons for not complying included the need to plough for weed control, outdoor pigs, cultivations prior to spring cropping etc
- “Minimising soil erosion” – (GAEC 5) – Measures must be put in place to limit soil and bankside erosion. This could include a variety of cropping and machinery practices, minimising compaction and livestock management practices.
- “Maintaining the level of organic matter in soil” (GAEC 6) – You must not burn cereal straw or stubble and you must comply with Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements (if applicable).
So in answer to the initial question – Yes we have seen the last of the Soil Protection Review as we know it and RPA inspections will now be based on visual inspection rather than paper work checks. As such it is still necessary to look after your soils and to do your best to protect them. After all soil it is one of, if not the most important resource and asset that you have.
Further information about the Soil Protection Standards and the rest of the Cross Compliance requirements has been posted to past claimants and is also available online here.