DESPITE the Scottish Government’s low-profile publication of further greening details online last week, some uncertainties and contradictions remain in the plans for implementing the reformed Common Agricultural Policy in Scotland, it was claimed earlier this week.
However, members of the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters & Valuers Association heard that, notwithstanding the fact that some issues had yet to be clarified, farmers should be planning ahead for the next all-important IACS claim to be made next May.
Warning that farmers should not be working out the complex details required to comply with the reforms – especially those necessary to meet the greening elements – as they “chewed on their pencil while filling in the claim forms” Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, told a meeting of agricultural consultants, lawyers and land agents that the complex nature of the scheme required a considerable amount of pre-planning.
With the greening proposals now accounting for almost a third of support payments, and no “equivalence” measures on offer in Scotland for 2015, he said it was crucial that growers got the arithmetic right to meet the requirements on crop diversification – the so-called three-crop rule – and for environmental focus areas.
He also warned that livestock farmers should not assume that they were excluded from these obligations.
He said: “Even if a livestock farmer grows only a relatively small area of grain for his own use – and this rotates with a fair area of temporary grass – he might find himself having to fulfil the requirements surrounding environmental focus areas and crop diversification.”
Issuing what he termed a “practical health warning” Moody stated that, while the task was both convoluted and challenging for those making claims, it would be equally as arduous for those administering a scheme which had become much more complex.
“And in this respect, it would be a wise move for producers to prepare themselves for a cash flow challenge if they rely on their support payments hitting their bank accounts at the beginning of December 2015.”
Giving a legal perspective, John Mitchell, partner with Anderson Strathern, warned that thinking things through before making any changes was important, especially when land sales and tenancies were being considered.
Suggesting that one outcome of the new regime might be to push such changes into the late summer/early autumn part of the year, rather than early spring, he said that such a move would give arable producers greater control over the all important ratio of crops and greening requirements required for an expanding enterprise.
“For hill units September is likely to see the ewe hogg requirements fulfilled while also seeing the LFASS claim out of the way.”
He added that the seller would need to ensure that a new owner met cross compliance requirements which remained until the end of the year.