A report in the Farmers Guardian says that Jim Paice has reiterated Defra's commitment to agri-environment schemes in light of the uncertainty surrounding their future.
Mr Paice acknowledged that schemes like Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) will have to be altered under Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform plans.
In a letter to the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), he said the full impact of moves to attach ‘greening’ conditions to direct payments in Pillar One of the CAP on these schemes remains unclear at this early stage of the negotiations.
“The European Commission has not so far answered questions concerning whether features or land already in agri-environment schemes could count towards greening,” he wrote.
However, even if this was confirmed, CAP rules mean farmers cannot be paid twice for the same actions in Pillar One and Pillar Two, which covers agri-environment schemes.
“We need to acknowledge that greening could mean that some of the options we currently pay for under Pillar Two would in future be required through cross compliance or paid for through the green element of Pillar One,” Mr Paice.