Farmers in Wales have been warned they face losing all of their single farm payments unless they take extra care when filling in their applications.

The Farmers Union of Wales said it had dealt with a significant number of cases where inadvertent errors had led to farmers losing a large proportion of their payments.

“In some cases, tiny errors such as a box ticked incorrectly have led to the loss of entire Single Payments,” said Gareth Vaughan, FUW president.

“This equated to losses of tens of thousands of pounds for farm businesses.”

Mr Vaughan said the FUW had lobbied the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Parliament to take a proportional approach to mistakes that were obvious errors or the result of exceptional circumstances.

“However, the assembly insists that the rules relating to obvious errors are extremely narrow and that EU auditors give them little or no leeway to be fair.

“This is even the case where all parties acknowledge that an inaccuracy was an inadvertent error,” Mr Vaughan said.

He also urged farmers to check the IACS/SAF acknowledgement letters that were issued by the assembly as soon as they arrived and to notify it of any errors immediately.

“If the assembly detects an error, the first a farmer may know about it is when they fail to receive their Single Payment in December.

“They will then have to go through the appeals process, which can take years and cost thousands of pounds, with no guarantee of a positive outcome at the end.”

Mr Vaughan said farmers should also notify the assembly of any exceptional circumstances or Force Majeure that might affect their busineeses as soon as they are able.

“We believe that many of the penalties applied under the current regime are completely immoral and disproportionate and some of the cases the FUW has dealt with are truly heartbreaking,” he added.

“We are therefore committed to fighting for a more proportionate and fair penalty system.

“However, under the current regime the best way to minimise the risk of penalties is by checking and double-checking every single detail on the IACS and by exercising extreme caution with regard to every aspect of the farm management and paperwork.”