ARCHIVE: Further information: Cross compliance


Recent Developments

Defra, in conjunction with RPA, have issued updated guidance documents for cross compliance to all farmers who have claimed SPS and/or Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Schemes. These publications are:

  • Guide to Cross Compliance in England (individual pages updated)
  • Cross Compliance Soil Protection Review 2010
  • Cross Compliance Guidance for Soil Management (2010 edition)

Copies of these documents can be downloaded from the RPA website.

Hilary Benn announces changes to GAEC standards in England (9 July 2009)

Introduction - Cross compliance requirements

Cross compliance requirements apply to anyone who receives direct payments under Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support schemes or receives payments under certain Rural Development schemes. There are three types of cross compliance requirements:

  • specific European legal requirements, known as Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs)
  • domestic legal requirements requiring land be kept in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC)
  • requirements to maintain a level of permanent pasture not included in the crop rotation for 5 years or more – this is not currently a cross compliance requirement for individual farmers, but may become one in future years.

Cross compliance requirements apply in addition to underlying obligations under European and UK legislation. All agricultural activities are covered by cross compliance and claimants must comply with the requirements across the whole agricultural area of their holding, regardless of the amount of land entered into the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). If there is a breach of cross compliance that is directly attributable to the claimant, they may have all of their direct payments reduced. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will advise of any payment reductions. Claimants will be held responsible for acts carried out by statutory bodies where that body required consent for their action and the claimant permitted them to carry out an action that amounted to a non-compliance. Claimants will not be held responsible for breaches by statutory bodies where they did not have the power to stop a statutory body from taking the action. Responsibility for ensuring compliance in relation to the identification and traceability of sheep, goats and pigs lies with the keeper – in this case the person with day-to-day responsibility for the animals. This applies regardless of who owns the animals and whose land they are grazing on. Responsibility for ensuring compliance in relation to the identification and traceability of cattle also lies with the keeper – in this case the person registered on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS). Responsibility for ensuring the welfare of all farmed animals lies with both the keeper – again, the person who has day-to-day responsibility for the animals – and the owner of the animals.


The following booklets have been produced to provide advice and guidance on the requirements under cross compliance:

All the above booklets, including the Cross Compliance Soil Protection Review 2010 can be found on the RPA website.

Further Advice

Cross compliance support and advice for farmers in England is available from both the Cross Compliance Advice Programme and the RPA.

Cross compliance: Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs)

Statutory Management Requirements were phased in over a 3 year period from 2005. They comprise of a number of articles from EU Directives and Regulations applicable to farmers which address environmental; public, plant and animal health; and animal welfare. There are currently 4 competent control authorities (CCAs) responsible for selecting and carrying out SMR inspections in England.


Area of Responsibility

Rural Payments Agency

SMRs 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 & 12

Environment Agency

SMRs 2,3 & 4

Veterinary Medicines Directorate

SMR 10

Animal Health

SMRs 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18

Each CCA is required to inspect at least 1% of farm businesses submitting claims under the Single Payment Scheme, and at least 1% of farm businesses that entered into new commitments under certain land-based rural development schemes from 1 January 2007. Each body will select and carry out inspections on the farm businesses that need to comply with the SMRs for which it has CCA responsibility. Where non-compliance with the SMRs is found, the level of seriousness will be assessed by the inspector with regard to the extent, severity, permanence and repetition, as set out in EU legislation.

Cross compliance: Good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC)

GAEC standards were introduced in January 2005 and set requirements for farmers in respect of soils, as well as maintaining a range of habitat and landscape features which are characteristic of the English countryside. They either reinforce existing law, or were already existing good practice.

GAECs 1-17 are inspected by RPA, and GAEC 18 is inspected by the Environment Agency. Both agencies are required to inspect at least 1% of farm businesses submitting claims under the Single Payment Scheme, and at least 1% of farm businesses that entered into new commitments under certain land-based rural development schemes from 1 January 2007.

Where non-compliance with the GAECs is found, the level of seriousness will be assessed by the inspector with regard to the extent, severity, permanence and repetition, as set out in EU legislation. The CAP Health Check has resulted in changes to some existing GAECs and the introduction of new GAEC standards.

Permanent pasture

Permanent pasture has been defined as land that has been under grass for at least 5 years and has not been ploughed for other crops in that time. A control mechanism has to be put in place to ensure that the national area of permanent pasture is not reduced by more than 5% of the total area of agricultural land - to meet the EU Regulations. Afforestation of permanent pasture that is "compatible with the environment" is exempt from this requirement providing it has been assessed under the existing Forestry EIA Regulations.

Permanent pasture includes all herbaceous plants traditionally found in natural pasture or normally included in mixtures of seeds for pasture or meadows in England, regardless of whether or not used for grazing. If the area of permanent pasture in England or the UK declines when compared with the 2003 figures, Defra (in conjunction with the devolved agencies) may have to take steps to prevent any further loss of permanent pasture, especially if this decline approaches 5%. If the area of permanent pasture declines by more than 10%, farmers who converted pasture in the two years prior to the 10% level being exceeded will be obliged to reconvert an area of land to permanent pasture and retain the land as permanent pasture for five years. In such circumstances areas converted to woodland would not be required to be converted back to permanent pasture. It is good practice to leave land in permanent pasture on steep fields and flood plains, as this can contribute to reducing erosion and soil loss during periods of heavy rain and flooding.   

Payments are available under the Environmental Stewardship for managing permanent pasture when farmers meet specific stocking, fertiliser and grassland management conditions, providing they have delivered the agreed environmental outcomes. Permanent pasture of high environmental interest, such as that which supports certain species or is on, or adjacent to, an SSSI, may be suitable for entry into the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship scheme.

Detailed guidance on managing pasture can be obtained by contacting Natural England (NE)

CAP Health Check

The European Commission’s Health Check legislative proposals built on the 2003 CAP reforms, which broke the link in a number of sectors between production and direct payments made to farmers - known as ‘de-coupling’. As a result of the 2003 reforms, the UK introduced the SPS. The 2003 reforms also made direct payments conditional on meeting a range of environmental and agricultural standards, through cross compliance. The Health Check proposals were subject to a full public consultation and analysis of the impacts can be found in the Health Check Impact Assessment.

The European Commission regard cross compliance as an essential element of the CAP, with the objectives of contributing to the development of sustainable agriculture, and making the CAP more compatible with the expectations of society at large.

The CAP Health Check also made a number of other changes to cross compliance. It refined and expanded the GAEC framework. Some of the standards are now explicitly compulsory, others are classified as optional. While standards cannot be removed altogether, this does not rule out changing the standard to make it more effective.

The Health Check requires new standards for buffer strips by watercourses and irrigation authorisations in order to meet a new objective to protect water against pollution and run-off, and to manage the use of water. The Health Check also made some changes to the SMRs, which are not the subject of consultation. These changes have been summarised in Appendix 3 of the consultation document.

Changes to cross compliance following the CAP Health Check

The CAP Health Check was agreed in January 2009. Key changes include the addition of new good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC) standards on water resource protection and habitat protection. Defra also took the opportunity to rationalise some existing GAEC standards. We consulted on the changes from 4th March – 27th May 2009. Hilary Benn announced the changes on 9th July 2009.

The CAP Health Check required us to introduce new standards to protect water resources. We have therefore introduced a new standard to:

  • Require farmers subject to cross compliance who abstract water for irrigation purposes to comply with the domestic abstraction licensing scheme.

We will also introduce a new standard from 1st January 2012 to:

  • Require all farmers subject to cross compliance to comply with restrictions on spreading manure and other fertilizers where this might enter the water supply. (This currently applies within Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) but will be extended to all land.)

The CAP Health Check also abolished set-aside. As non-agricultural activities (e.g. community events and sporting activities) were often held on set-aside land we have clarified the rules for land not in agricultural production (i.e. GAEC 12) to ensure that (within certain limitations) such activities are able to continue.

We have consolidated 4 existing standards for soil management into the Soil Protection Review. This will result in farmers taking greater responsibility for managing risks to their soil and within this risk assessment framework allow greater flexibility. For example it is no longer necessary for the Secretary of State to grant exemptions for farmers to access waterlogged land, but famers must identify, record and remediate any damage that occurs if they access waterlogged land.

We have also clarified the application of the existing 2m no-cultivation zone for landscape features (GAEC 14) by hedgebanks. These traditional features require disturbance at the base of the bank as part of their traditional management. The revision to the standard will encourage traditional management, without the need to seek a derogation from the RPA.

In order to maintain protection of water resources we will be encouraging farmers to use buffers strips to protect watercourses in vulnerable locations and providing advice and guidance to help them do so. We will monitor the effectiveness of this approach to inform future policy development including under the Water Framework Directive.

All these changes will be introduced from 1st January 2010, except where specified

Defra and RPA have updated all the relevant written and online guidance, which can be downloaded from the RPA website along with other relevant information.  The Cross Compliance Advice Programme will also ensure that changes and new standards are covered in its programme of events for farmers and its helpline staff are fully briefed.

Page published: 19 January 2010