23 September 2014, After the long delay in getting the details of CAP reform, the important message is don’t delay if you have excess entitlements compared with eligible hectares to transfer to the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
Single Payment Scheme (SPS) entitlements become BPS on December 31, 2014, and surplus hectares will be extinguished once the 2015 claim is made.
SPS entitlements can still be transferred until October 21, 2014, the deadline for submission of the RLE1 transfer form.
The difficulty most farmers have faced is that some of the rules surrounding Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs), that form part of the “greening” measures that affect many arable farmers, are not entirely clear. Under these rules, farmers with more than 15 hectares of “Arable Land” may have to put 5% of their arable land in to an EFA.
The simplest way to do this is to “set aside” 5% of the Arable Land as “fallow”. But care is required to understand both the definition of “Arable Land” land and what will qualify as “fallow”.
Another option is using hedges as a means of claiming the 5% EFA. However, the rules in relation to hedges are yet to be determined. At present it seems clear that if a hedge is bordered directly by arable land in the ownership of one farmer, then the hedge can be claimed. However, if the hedge borders permanent pasture, a road or a neighbour’s land on the other side, it is not clear whether this hedge can be used to contribute to the EFA and if so to what extent.
In some cases crop planting decisions will have to be made before the details are determined.
There is a summary of CAP changes as we understand them at this stage at www.carterjonas.co.uk/cap-changes. The essential is to seek early advice on anything of which you are unsure. With current gloomy commodity prices matched by forward predictions, no farmer can afford to wait and then find mistakes have been made too late to rectify them.