3:31pm Friday 30th August 2013
By Mike Bridgen
MINISTERS may axe 16,000 small claimants from the single farm payment scheme.
The plan is in a report on how the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy could affect direct payments in England from 2015.
No final decision has been made, but the “status”
report gives an insight into what ministers are thinking.
The current minimum claim size is one hectare – 2.5 acres – but Defra’s initial view is to raise it to five hectares (12 acres).
Those affected – about 15pc of total claimants – have about 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) or 0.6pc of the land on which claims are made.
The report said it would make a modest reduction in administration costs and simplify the Rural Payment Agency’s task of launching the new scheme.
It said 60pc of holdings below five hectares are not farmed primarily for business reasons. Their removal would have minimal environmental impact as they are below the size covered by “greening”
Thirty per cent of a farm’s direct payment will be for greening – requiring environmental measures beyond cross compliance.
Non-compliance will attract no penalty – other than the loss of the 30pc – for two years, but penalties will then be imposed on top.
However, the Government could opt for an alternative national certification scheme “to offer measures more suited to circumstances in England”.
Ministers are inclined to keep the three-region payment system in England, but are looking to move more money into the hills.
The UK’s budget allocation for 2014-20 still has to be confirmed, but ministers expect to receive £17.8bn for direct payments (Pillar 1) and £1.84bn for rural development (Pillar 2).
Discussions on the split between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are ongoing.
EU members can transfer up to 15pc of Pillar 1 money to Pillar 2, but must inform the Commission by December 31.
Ministers will offer a package of Rural Development Programme support in 2014, the transition year between CAP programmes.
Subject to EU approval, it includes £26m of new Higher Level Stewardship agreements and £4m for uplands and organic Entry Level Stewardship. Both could be offered to farmers whose old-style “classic”
agreements are ending.
Up to £14m could be offered for catchment sensitive farming projects and up to £500,000 in forestry grants for essential one-off capital investments.
Defra will hold formal consultations in October.
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