Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Rural Payments Agency

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has reported that it has successfully paid Single Payments to 95,600 farmers in England on the first day of the payment window being 2nd December this year. This is the best the RPA has ever achieved since the Single Payment Scheme was introduced in 2005 and it is a far cry from the chaos and delays which were experienced by many farmers in the early years of the scheme.

Indeed the payments made on 2nd December exceed the RPA’s own payment targets, which is good news for farmers, many of whom in the livestock sector in particular are still reliant on these subsidies in order to make a profit.

However, there is a concern that with the forthcoming reform of the CAP which will come in to force in 2015 that the RPA does not take its eye off the ball. It is imperative the RPA makes sure that as far as possible the progress that has been made in recent years is not squandered when the new scheme is introduced.

There is hope that the new scheme will be easier to administer because the government has sensibly decided to roll over the existing “entitlements” in to the new scheme. This will mean farmers will not have to go through a fresh registration process under the new scheme but there will no doubt be many other complications which may have the potential to cause problems.

The entitlements are important because in order to claim the area based support payments under the Single Payment Scheme and the new successor scheme, farmers need to match the number of entitlements they hold with an equivalent area of qualifying farmland. Therefore, as a result of the decision to roll over existing entitlements in to the new scheme, the value of entitlements has appreciated from around £200/entitlement to around £300/entitlement because there is now certainty that they will be around until 2020 which is when the CAP will next come under review.

Accordingly, those farmers with spare entitlements may consider selling them sooner rather than later because under the new scheme it is understood that any entitlements which are not claimed in 2015 will be confiscated without compensation. These entitlements will be put in to the National Reserve for distribution to other claimants, the rules for which are as yet unknown.

Further, any claimants with less than 5 hectares of land will no longer be allowed to claim in the new scheme which means they may wish to offload their entitlements now even though this would preclude them from making a claim in 2014.

So, it seems just as the RPA have got to grips with the existing Single Payment Scheme after 9 years of trying, there is a danger things could go awry as a new scheme is introduced in 2015. However, I hope the roll over of entitlements will make this process much more manageable than it was in 2005 although that does not mean to say the RPA or farmers should be complacent. The new scheme will present both opportunities for some and dangers for others and farmers will need to keep abreast of developments as the detail of the new scheme rules start to emerge over the coming months.

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

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