- A Destructive Practice of Ignorance For Ever More Land, Sheep, and Payments...
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP):
the Common Agricultural Policy is the body that oversees all farming payments, or agricultural subsidies, most notably (in the UK) BPS, with the administrative processes handled by the RPA. The level of CAP payment is frequently used in place of BPS because a landowner or farmer's CAP payment typically encompasses all the payments that they receive as opposed to just one of potentially many, including some that are one-off, only for a certain duration, or only available to certain sectors of the farming industry.
Rural Payments Agency (RPA):
the body responsible for the administration of BPS and farm subsidy payments, in addition to overseeing compliance with environmental requirements.
Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):
a European Union rural grants and payment scheme in support of the farming industry, with applications submitted around May for payment in December.
In England, this is administered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which is an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Also, whilst the available information is very vague on the subject, BPS applies to land that is used both for the growing of crops and for grazing. BPS also carries a requirement for farmers to comply with Cross-Compliance and Greening practices.
keeping the land in "good agricultural and environmental condition
" and complying with a number of specific legal requirements known as "statutory management requirements
", relating to the environment, animal health and welfare and public and plant health.
Cross-Compliance is also a mandatory requirement in order to qualify for BPS payments, and applies to all the land managed by a farmer, regardless of whether that land is part of their BPS claim or not.
Further, a farmer must comply with the standards of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC), of which there are seven conditions:
GAEC 1: Water – Establishment of Buffer Strips
This, straightaway, is one area where the farmers have failed (and continue to fail) completely and totally to comply with GAEC, with multiple instances of water contamination and ongoing contamination as a direct consequence of their destruction of the fenland habitat:
- Inorganic fertilisers and manufactured fertilisers must not be applied within 2 metres of surface water.
I witnessed the initial spraying with herbicide on the 21st May, and further spraying of the fenland area on the 4th September, and can confirm that the conditions at the time were wet with surface water build-up on the fields, such that the deep wheel ruts in the mud can still be clearly seen in videos and photographs taken since that time.
GAEC 2: Water – Use of Water for Irrigation
Deals with the abstration of water for irrigation and is possibly the only
GAEC standard that the farmer has not (yet) broken or which they do not continue to break on a day-by-day basis.
GAEC 3: Water – Groundwater
Protecting groundwater from agricultural pollution: another (in this case) epic fail on one of main requirements alone:
Does industrial strength herbicide count as hazardous?
- Do not spread any hazardous or non-hazardous substance on land which is within 10 metres of any surface water and 50 metres of any well, borehole, spring, or watercourse important for wildlife.
- Evidently the farmers in question do not believe so, or they have a serious problem comprehending the simple requirements of GAEC.
GAEC 4: Soil and Carbon Stock – Minimum soil cover
This gets even more interesting:
- You must protect soil by having a minimum soil cover, except where establishing a cover would conflict with requirements under GAEC 5.
To comply with requirements where land has been harvested with a combine harvester, forage harvester or mower, one of the following conditions should be met at all times, between the day after harvest to the 1 March:
- the stubble of the harvested crop remains in the land,
- the land is prepared as a seedbed within 14 days for a crop and the crop is sown within a period of 10 days, beginning with the day after final seedbed preparation.
- NB: if sowing within that 10-day period would mean breaching the requirement in GAEC 5, the crop or temporary cover crop should be sown as soon as is practical after it ceases to be waterlogged.
...well the first condition definitely was not met because the land was ploughed - a good six weeks
afterwards, and this was in June - a good nine months away to March. As for breaching the requirement of GAEC 5 (even outside of the fact that the ground most definitely was not
waterlogged at the time):
GAEC 5: Soil and carbon stock – Minimum land management site specific conditions to limit erosion
Under this condition it states:
- To prevent erosion on late harvested land or on land where a forage or root crop has been grazed out, if it is not possible to sow a cover crop, you must put in place appropriate measures to limit soil erosion by either installing sediment fencing or chisel ploughing.
...and, yes, it was
ploughed ...only the image added below shows what looks suspiciously like a disc-harrow [ image date 11.08.2018 ]
; and they would normally only be used after, and further to
, the initial ploughing in order to break-down ploughed soil in preparation for cultivation and to cover seed after sowing - yet another GAEC contravention in this particular case and almost certainly a prime reason why the field area is now a flooded sea of mud.
...then thoroughly worked-over to remove rocks, stones, and boulders (effectively destroying the functionality of at least one of the main drainage channels in the process.
...before being thoroughly compacted, with aggregates used in the process to firm-up the ground (which does absolutely nothing to prevent erosion, - quite the opposite, in fact).
Also, regarding the use of aggregates, GAEC 5
has the following to say on the subject (and bearing in mind that there had been rainfall prior to ploughing and that the ground, by that time, was waterlogged again):
Do not carry out any mechanical field operations on waterlogged soil, unless it is necessary for one of the following reasons [ not a single one of which was applicable1 ]:
- animal welfare or human safety;
- improving drainage of the soil;
- incorporating gypsum following saltwater intrusion;
- meeting contractual obligations in relation to the harvesting of a crop on saturated soil; or
- the soil is waterlogged within 20 metres of the access point and access is required to an area which is not waterlogged.
- 1 see further notes here
Attempts at working this part of the field, along with another area on the other side of the field area, had to be abandoned because the ground was so waterlogged [ image date 30.08.2018, both images ]
Ironically, both areas are now returning to their former state, with the ground around at least one of them so waterlogged that that, too, is probably now also unworkable; which at least works in favour of the Skylarks, if nothing else, and which is another reason why it is so important that this ongoing habitat destruction and abuse of land-management needs to be investigated and stopped.
- NB: Should you carry out mechanical field operations for one of the above reasons, you must provide Rural Payments Wales with photographic or other evidence which demonstrates the activity was absolutely necessary.
...and two other interesting sections of the same requirement:
- ..."Leave a 5 metre wide strip unploughed and uncultivated at the bottom of sloping fields where soil erosion is likely, alternatively install sediment fences".
The area of (ex-)permanent grassland in question slopes down towards the river (or, at least, used to), so the above would apply on the basis of how the land is supposed to be (if nothing else) if it is not to be just a sea of mud extension of the river.
Either way, it should be noted that, in the following images, the reedbed constitutes the river border itself, and is a point up to which the river frequently flows and overflows with no ground whatsoever between that point and where the worked area of the field starts. Further, such borders do not count towards GAEC requirements, for which the 5 metre strip or sediment fences would have to extend from the reed bed into the field area.
- "The aim of this requirement is to limit soil erosion by not undertaking certain operations. - Compaction of both topsoil and subsoil can seriously damage overall soil structure, restrict root growth and reduce the air and water carrying capacity of the land".
Compaction of both topsoil and subsoil can seriously damage overall soil structure, restrict root growth and reduce the air and water carrying capacity of the land.
[ video date 05.09.2018, image date 30.08.2018 ]
GAEC 6: Soil and Organic Matter – Maintenance
This requirement does not appear to apply in this case; however, GAEC 7
is a different matter entirely:
GAEC 7: Maintenance of Landscape Features
Yet more contraventions of GAEC:
- Retain all landscape features such as stone walls, stone-faced banks, hedges, and earthbanks, slate fences. Their removal or destruction on land subject to Cross Compliance will not be allowed unless you have written planning or development consent from the relevant authority.
[ ...I guess it is just as well for the 'farmers' that there is no longer any oversight on this or inspections... ].
- If appropriate, in order to enable machinery or animal access, you may widen an existing access point within a hedge, wall, earth bank or slate fence up to maximum of 10 metres.
[ ...or, in this case, simply plough and bury those channels you do not want, including a section of channel which you want access across, destroying the drainage properties of the channel in the process ].
- Retain all ditches (including dry ditches) on the holding, unless consent has been obtained (from the relevant Local Authority) allowing their removal.
[ ...or, as in the case above, simply plough and bury those channels you do not want (but only after overspraying them with industrial strength herbicide) ].
- Do not cultivate (e.g. plough, rotovate, tine or disc) any land within 1 metre of a hedge, earthbank or surface water regardless of the size of the field.
The 'farmers' have an intriguing take on the last of the above directives:
take one earth embankment (by definition a mound of earth or stone to hold back water or to support a roadway)1
, and rip-out (or cut-down) all but the very largest of the trees:
...follow this up by roughly scraping off the top of layer of groundcover and soil
you now no longer have an embankment [
problem solved ]
There would definitely appear to be some confusion here, or maybe the farmers simply lost a page (or several?) from their Cross-Compliance handbook (or the plot altogether, possibly)?
[ 1 ] there is a charge on the land registry deed dated 22.10.1992 relating to a right of conveyance which, in turn, dates from 5th January 1924. The right allows for what is now a public right of way to be used for driving livestock and also for access to the river and lands to the other side of the river by horses, carraiges, and wagons; meaning, by extension, that the embankment was unquestionably intended to be just that and that, as such, it remains as such as long as that charge remains on the registry deed.
Finally, outside of GAEC, there is also a requirement to ensure that the ratio of permanent pasture to total agricultural area is maintained. A farmer may also require authorisation before they can convert permanent pasture should that ratio decrease, in addition to being required to re-convert land back to permanenet pasture should that ratio fall too low:
activities involving permanent grassland, crop diversification, and maintenance of permanent grassland. Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) can be used to count towards a farmer's Greening total. Greening activities can be (ab)used to gain additional BPS payments.
Basic Payment Scheme Greening Guidance
the proper, and only, name for Wales
the Welsh Government's historic environment service working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment for Wales.
Gwasanaeth amgylchedd hanesyddol Llywodraeth Cymru yw Cadw, sy’n gweithio i sicrhau bod amgylchedd hanesyddol Cymru yn hygyrch ac yn cael ei ddiogelu’n dda.
Cadw [ EN ] [ CY ]
Ecological Focus Areas:
An Ecological Focus Area is an area of land upon which agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment are carried-out and, unless exempt, a farmer is required to place at least 5% of their calculated arable area into one or more of the following 6 types of EFA in order to meet EFA commitments:
- Fallow land
- Buffer strips
- Field margins
- Catch crops
- Green cover
- Nitrogen-fixing crops
Normally EFA specific requirements are optional for any farmer managing not more than 15 hectares; beyond that, and definitely in this case, the area being destroyed (I am not sure that, in all good conciousness, I can use the word managing
in this case) by The 'Farmers' of the Destroyed Fenland is considerably more than 15 hectares and, as such, they would most definitely, be required to comply with EFA rules, including those pertaining to permanent grassland and the protection of (which they have also broken additional to those concerning EIA, Greening, GAEC, and Cross-Compliance).
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA):
The EIA Regulations are designed to allow routine agricultural operations whilst protecting land with special environmental, historic or cultural importance.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (Wales) Regulations 2017 apply to all semi-natural areas in Wales, excluding only forestry and woodlands (which have their own regulations), and are (supposed to be) handled by Natural Wales who, by law, have to be contacted prior to any work involving either of the following:
Environmental Impact Assessments Regulations
Agri-Environment Climate Scheme
- agricultural improvements on semi-natural areas
- projects involving restructuring of rural land holdings on any agricultural land type.
: in Cymru this appears to come under Glastir
[ Green Land ]. The original overview of Glastir seems to have been lost in the transition to an updated government website, but the following Wikipedia article is accurate enough, with the second link being the current government Glastir webportal:
The following linked article is also of interest and of concern, too: "A further £16m allocation will be made to the Sustainable Production Grant to help farmers prepare for the introduction of regulations to protect water quality from agricultural pollution
and improve their nutrient management."
...followed by a statement from the Cabinet Secretary to the effect that: "Last month I announced I will be introducing all-Wales regulations to help the industry tackle the unacceptable levels of agricultural pollution on our water. I have allocated £16m through the Sustainable Production Grant to support the industry in this work"
...and could the following linked article be why the CAP payments of the two farmers seem to have increased year-on-year by around 50% since 2016?
this is an extra payment per hectare for smaller farmers, typically based on around 50% of the Basic Payment area (which also means that if the Basic Payment Area can be made to expand, eg
: through the destruction of buffer strips and land with special allocations that would normally need Environmental Impact Assessments and the like, this payment, too, can be made to increase nicely.
Reimbursement of Financial Discipline:
the EU holds-back some of the BPS budget every year to create a reserve for use against any crises in the farming industry, eg
: disease outbreaks. This money is then re-imbursed to the farmers the following year as an RFD payment.
this site is undergoing ongoing changes and amendments as further details and evidence is gathered and added to the site, so please feel free to use the contact details given at the foot of this page should you have any questions or should you wish to submit further details or evidence of your own; but please do not send attachments without first contacting me, as the attachments will simply be deleted by the mail server otherwise.
All the media material on this site is available by request, including copies of the original .jpg
files and additional material that is not currently part of the online article; likewise all letters and emails relating to contact with Rural Wales, the Environment Agency, and Natural Wales.
For anyone wanting to make their own reports of similar activities in their area, please contact me via my secure email address, and via a Protonmail account (free accounts available), if possible. Field numbers are also essential
for reporting incidents to Rural Payments, and these can be determined via MAGIC [
Interactive Map >
Where Am I? top menu-bar button) >
click on relevant area on the main map for the field number after zooming-in on, or searching for, that area) ]
I can also be contacted via Mastodon
Short URL: http://bit.do/DestroyedFenland
- Just John, @: Ex5NY27U corequery.uk
- secure email address as detailed above -