Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)

5.5 What additional requirements will apply to your agreement?


5.5.1 Cross compliance

The term ‘cross compliance’ refers to the requirement for farmers to comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and to keep their land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) as a condition of claiming EU land-based grants and subsidies. SMRs are a baseline to Stewardship scheme options and failure to observe the rules could result in reduction or loss of scheme payments depending on the severity of the breach.

The cross compliance rules apply to Environmental Stewardship agreements, whether or not you are also claiming under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). Therefore, when joining the scheme, you will be agreeing to:

  • maintain your land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) by meeting a range of standards that relate to the protection of soils, habitats and landscape features and water; and
  • meet a range of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) covering the environment, public and plant health, animal health and welfare, and livestock identification and tracing.

You must comply with cross compliance requirements across all of the agricultural land that you farm, including land on your SPS claim form (whether it is claimed or not) and common land over which you exercise or hold rights of common.

A proportion of agreement holders will be inspected each year to check that they meet the cross compliance standards and requirements. If any non-compliance is found, it will normally be necessary to reduce your payments, depending on the seriousness of the non-compliance. Cross compliance applies to a number of schemes (including Environmental Stewardship and the SPS); any reductions due as a result of non-compliance will therefore be applied to all area payments due under each of the schemes for which you have submitted a claim.

Full details about cross compliance can be found in the latest version of The Guide to Cross Compliance in England and the associated publication Guidance for Cross Compliance in England: Management of Habitats and Landscape Features. Copies of these are available on the RPA website, details in Appendix 2. Further information and advice about cross compliance can be obtained from Defra’s Farming Advice Service, details in Appendix 2.

For details of how ELS boundary management options and buffer strip options fit with cross compliance boundary protection zones, please see the relevant option details in Section 3.

 

5.5.2 Avoidance of under-utilisation and overgrazing

As a condition of your ELS agreement, you will be required to avoid under-utilisation and overgrazing on the whole of your farmed area. You must distribute stock across your farm to ensure this is the case.

Under-utilisation means where annual growth is not being fully utilised, or where scrub or coarse vegetation is becoming evident, and this is detrimental to the environmental interests of the site.

Overgrazing means grazing land with so many livestock that the growth, quality or diversity of vegetation is adversely affected, and this is detrimental to the environmental interests of the site.

We will investigate cases of suspected under-utilisation and overgrazing. You will be in breach of your agreement if you fail to follow subsequent professional advice.

 

5.5.3 Public Rights of Way

As a condition of joining the scheme, you must maintain existing public rights of way on your land and abide by the relevant legislation. Further information on public rights of way, including the duties of landowners and occupiers of land, can be found at www.naturalengland.org.uk (see Appendix 2 for the full web address).

 

5.5.4 Protection of historic features

Your annotated Farm Environment Record (FER) includes information supplied by us on the Environmental Information Map (see Section 4.1.4 for more details). The FER will show the location of some of the historic features (including archaeological features and TFBs) on your land. For any of these features, and for any additional features of which you are subsequently advised in writing by us, you must not:

  • cause ground disturbance, including poaching by livestock, on known archaeological features or areas of historic interest under grassland;
  • sub-soil or de-stone on areas containing known archaeological features, unless these operations have been demonstrably undertaken as a routine in the past five years;
  • deliberately plough more deeply or undertake additional groundworks or drainage on those areas already under cultivation that contain known archaeological feature;
  • run free-range pigs on archaeological features;
  • remove any useable building stone, walling stone or traditional roofing material off the land, excluding materials produced from established quarries; or
  • damage, demolish or remove building material from substantially complete ruined TFBs or parcel boundaries.

 

5.5.5 Archaeological fieldwork and metal detecting on your land

With certain exceptions (see below) metal detecting is allowed on land within an ELS agreement, provided that it is undertaken in accordance with best practice laid down in the current Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales and that you agree that all finds are reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. For details of this code, please see www.finds.org.uk.

Metal detecting is not allowed on Scheduled Monuments, SSSIs and known archaeological sites under grassland. By ‘known archaeological sites’, we mean archaeological sites identified in your FER and any additional sites of which you are subsequently advised in writing by us.

You must also ensure that the metal detecting does not conflict with the requirements of your ELS agreement, ie where the proposed detecting will affect your ability to meet any option prescriptions. In such a case, you will need a derogation. Section 5.6.6 explains how to apply for a derogation.

As part of your ELS agreement, we require you to protect and retain archaeological sites and other environmental features (ie the features identified in your FER) over the entire area under agreement. You must ensure that no damage is caused to these features, and any additional features of which you are subsequently advised in writing by us, wherever metal detecting takes place.

Damage to archaeological sites is taken to mean disturbance of previously undisturbed deposits in and on archaeological sites and monuments, and any removal, loss and/or disruption of standing masonry or other upstanding structural material. If you are in any doubt about whether any operations will damage environmental features, please contact us.

You must inform us of large-scale metal-detecting events, including metal-detecting rallies, on any ELS agreement land at least 12 weeks before the event. You should provide all available details including the date, location, a map showing the parcels to be searched (marked with any areas excluded), and the expected number of participants. We will provide you with advice to ensure that the event does not conflict with the requirements and objectives of the ELS agreement.

On Scheduled Monuments, you must obtain a licence from English Heritage before metal detecting can take place. Detecting without such a licence is a criminal offence.

On SSSIs, where actions resulting from metal detecting (eg digging or vegetation disturbance) are listed as ‘operations likely to damage the special interest’ of the SSSI, you must give written notice to us of these operations. Detecting can only proceed with written consent.

You need to apply for a derogation for any proposed fieldwork (such as test-pitting or excavation) that would cause, or is expected to cause, ground disturbance or damage (see above) to any known archaeological sites. Section 5.6.6 explains how to apply for a derogation.

In addition, any archaeological fieldwork (including the use of ground penetrating radar or remote sensing) on Scheduled Monuments requires written consent from English Heritage before fieldwork can commence. You must obtain written consent from us for any archaeological fieldwork (including the use of ground-penetrating radar or remote sensing) on SSSIs before fieldwork can commence.

 

5.5.6 Other activities on your land

Subject to any other existing restrictions, country pursuits such as shooting, hunting and fishing are allowed, provided they are compatible with your agreement. You should make sure that any activities, and the exercise of other rights, will not conflict with the delivery of the required management of the scheme options.

 

5.5.7 Inspecting and monitoring your agreement

Authorised Defra staff or their agents may visit you to inspect your land during the course of your agreement. The RPA will visit a percentage of agreements every year to assess compliance with the scheme requirements. EU regulations require that, in many cases, there will be no warning of an inspection. You must give inspecting officers access at any reasonable time and you may be asked to accompany them to help identify work and discuss the requirements of your agreement. Deliberate failure to be available to accompany the officer will be treated as unacceptable and potentially as a breach of agreement. In addition, if you refuse an inspection, payment on your agreement will not be made.

Natural England and Defra monitor agreements to assess the environmental and economic impacts of the scheme. By applying to join the scheme, you are agreeing to co-operate with any scheme monitoring.

 

5.5.8 Agricultural Waste Regulations

You must abide by the Agricultural Waste Regulations. These regulations affect whether you can burn, bury or store your waste, use your waste on the farm or send it elsewhere. These regulations also control the spreading of ditch dredgings from farm ditches on agricultural land. You must hold an exemption to carry out this practice on your farm.

 

5.5.9 Plaques

EU regulations require that for certain types of agreement you display a plaque acknowledging the support provided under the RDPE. Where this is the case, Natural England will supply you with a suitable plaque.

 

5.5.10 Keep necessary records

You must retain all scheme documentation. Defra staff or their agents may ask to see them during inspections.

If an option requires you to:

  • graze a field at a particular stocking density, or
  • not increase your stocking above the existing level, or
  • graze or exclude stock at specific times of the year,

you must be able to demonstrate compliance with the scheme requirements by keeping adequate records which identify the livestock type and stocking level on each parcel where the option is located.

You must also keep records of the location and timing of ‘rotational options’ and any specific records referred to in the management options in Section 3.

 

5.5.11 State Aid payments

State Aid payments are typically made under specific State Aid cover granted by the European Commission.

Most ELS payments have State Aid cover under the RDPE. However, some funds available through ELS are offered under non-agricultural de minimis State Aid rules.

The European rules require that any beneficiary (whether an individual, business or organisation) does not receive more than €200,000 of non-agricultural de minimis State Aid over any three fiscal years. This figure applies to all non-agricultural de minimis aid received from all sources during the three-year period.

In ELS and Uplands ELS, this applies to building maintenance options (ie ED1 and UD12).

 

5.5.12 Other funding

You must not accept any other European Union (EU) funding or enter into another agreement that applies to the agreement land or capital works covered by your ELS agreement without our written consent. EU regulations do not permit more than one source of EU funding for the same activity.

 

5.5.13 Publicity

For any publicity, events, information or interpretative material on or about agreement land, you must acknowledge the support of the Environmental Stewardship, as part of the RDPE.

 

5.5.14 Photographs

If you are required to supply photographs in support of your application, (because an option you have selected requires you to do so), each photograph must clearly show the feature to be managed. Ideally, the whole of the feature should be on one photograph, but where necessary you should use more, for instance, to show all sides of a TFB.

Each photograph must display the date on which it was taken and must be clearly numbered. The photographs should be cross-referenced with a map showing the position the photographs were taken from, the number of the photograph and an arrow indicating the direction of the shot. You can submit the photographs in either digital format (on a CD) or as colour prints (at least 6”x4”).

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