FARM LEADERS say DEFRA still needs to answer a number of key questions about the introduction of the single farm payment in Jan 2005.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty unveiled further details about the national reserve and 2m margins on Tues (Nov 2).

But the NFU has stressed that producers still require further information.

Vice president Meurig Raymond, said: “Farmers still require further information on how the Single Payment Scheme will apply to cross border holdings and common land.

“Some issues surrounding the national reserve and traditional orchards also remain unclear.”

Mr Raymond acknowledged that the government has promised there will be further announcements.

But he added: “It is important that these decisions are made as soon as possible.

“British farming is entering a crucial time and farmers need to be receiving clear signals in order to make sound decisions on the future of their businesses.”

In response to DEFRA‘s announcement the Country Land and Business Association said the government had taken a common sense stance on some of the issues.

In particular, it was pleased land grazed by horses is to be eligible for SFP and there will be a derogation for small fields from the 2m margin rule.

The proposed application of 2m margins to all fields was not welcomed by farmers who believed it unfairly penalised small producers, it said.

“The announcement of a derogation will be well received by the industry and we are pleased that the government has listened to our concerns.”