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NFU Responds To Single Payment Scheme Consultation


The NFU has submitted its response to the recent Defra consultation on changes to the Single Payment Scheme. The proposals, which arise from the CAP Health Check agreed last November, deal with the introduction of a minimum claim size, whether to introduce a genuine farmer test, and the decoupling of nut and protein crop payments.

In its response, the NFU calls on Defra to opt for the lowest minimum claim area in order to maintain support for small, fragile rural businesses. It also opposes the introduction of a genuine farmer test.

Commenting on the response, NFU President Peter Kendall said: In 2004, the NFU favoured the introduction of a minimum claim area of around five hectares. We could see clearly that going down the regional area-based payment route that Defra favoured would bring a massive number of additional claimants into the SPS causing mayhem for the RPA and claim processing. This warning wasn’t heeded and this is exactly what happened.

To look at introducing a five hectare threshold now would be too late. What is more, many businesses, including some farmers, have acquired entitlements on small holdings that they believe will remain until 2013. To remove them would be unfair and would strip money out of the rural economy. For these reasons, we have adopted a pragmatic approach and our position now is to introduce the lowest threshold of one hectare.

The consultation document implies that a move to five hectares would affect 17,000 claimants with an average claim of 750 Euros and Mr Kendall said the question of what would ultimately happen to these unclaimed SPS funds needed answering.

Defra has made it clear that the value of any unclaimed entitlements would not be redistributed to eligible claimants and the consultation is silent on what happens to the 11 million that would theoretically be released. We can only assume that this would be lost to the rural economy and ultimately reclaimed by the Treasury.

The NFU agrees with Defra that a genuine farmer test to limit claim eligibility to farmers should not be introduced because of the technical and legal difficulties associated with determining relevant criteria. It also argues in favour of decoupling protein crop and nut aid payments in 2012.

Tempting as the idea might be to many farmers, finding a definition of a farmer that captures the very wide spectrum of activities and land occupancy of many of our farming members would be virtually impossible. Therefore we think it best, like Defra, not to set additional criteria beyond those contained in the Council Regulation.

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