THERE IS, they say, no such thing as a free lunch.

In the new language of the mid-term review the phrase cross-compliance will become all too familiar in future. Put simply, this means that conforming to a set of Brussels directives will be part of the process of claiming and receiving the single farm payment.

DEFRA will soon issue a booklet outlining the requirements. Many of the rules are legal requirements now, and it is unlikely that we will fall foul of them unless we try really hard.

The details probably reside unread on the office shelf to be shown on demand during ACCS or FABBL inspections.

In future it will pay farmers and land managers to read and understand all of them.

Indeed I can foresee part of the “new look” SFP base form asking for evidence that you comply.

For example, under the Code of Practice Relating to Air, burning polythene and other plastic wastes is now prohibited.

There may well be a section to fill in asking for proof, a copy of an invoice, for example, showing that an approved contractor has disposed of the waste.

The code of practice on soils is, perhaps, easier for farmers to understand and comply with.

To claim SFP all land must be farmed under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC). This means that from 2006 each farm will have to develop a soil management plan, detailing ways of maintaining soil organic matter and structure with the minimum level of maintenance to minimise erosion.

This may seem like more red tape from a government that promised us less paperwork.

It seems daunting now, but I am sure will become second nature. As I said, there is no such thing as a free lunch.