By Andrew Shirley

COMPLETING THE first part of the SP5 form should take less time than the field data sheets, as most of the questions just require a yes or no answer, says Bidwells” Carl Atkin.

“Part A asks questions about the business making the claim and, if it is on the Rural Payments Agency”s system already, the answers should have been pre-populated with the correct data. But don”t assume it is right, always check just in case.”

Answering parts B and C, which ask if the applicant wants to establish and activate their entitlement to single farm payment, should be straightforward, says Mr Atkin. “In the vast majority of cases you wouldn”t be filling in the form if you weren”t going to say yes.”

There is also the option to establish and activate special entitlements, but these should apply to few English producers, says Mr Atkin. “But be careful if you are planning to concentrate a big historic payment that includes certain livestock and dairy support schemes on to a small area.”

“Choosing a start date for the 10-month period during which the claimant must have the land being claimed on at their disposal (part D) is probably the first question that really requires some serious thought. He says: “If you pick the wrong 10-month period it could cause problems in the long-term.”

For more details on the 10-month rule and its implications see Land and Farms, p92.

Set-aside first rears its head in the next question (part E), but no tricky decisions are required, says Mr Atkin. “They come later in the form.”

Fruit, vegetable and potato growers have the chance in part F to claim the number of FVP authorisations they think they are entitled to. “These will be primarily allocated according to production during 2003, and then 2004 and 2005 if there are any left over. But don”t forget you can”t activate any authorisations unless you have a matching area of land at your disposal this year,” cautions Mr Atkin.

The next six parts of the form (G to L) also refer to specific sectors and some will affect very few English businesses. “There are not too many who will be claiming area payments for nuts,” he predicts. “However, those growing crops eligible for protein payments – field beans and peas – should make sure they tick the right box in part J.”

 But dairy farmers who sold milk during the 2004/2005 quota year need to pay close attention to part K, especially those with cross-border farms, because it will ensure their dairy premium is added to the correct historic payment. When declaring the acres used in each region do not include land purely used for growing forage maize, says Mr Atkin.

Farmers wishing to apply to the national reserve can use part N of the SP5 form to do so (see this week”s Business section).

 Where land has been sold using a private contract clause (PCC) to ensure any entitlements move to the buyer, part N can be filled out by either the seller or new owner – with the vendor”s agreement – or both.

PCCs are one of the simplest ways to transfer historic SFP with land and if one was not put in place during the initial sale, the original contract can still be legally modified if the vendor agrees, says Mr Atkin.

One catch, he says, is that, even with a PCC in place, the vendor must still be considered as a UK farmer by DEFRA at the time of application. “A bit difficult in some cases; one of our clients bought land from somebody who has emigrated to Canada.”

 Apart from question 29, most of part O is similar to the IACS forms, says Mr Atkin. “Just remember to note any maps that may be needed if you have subdivided fields.”

By now form fatigue has probably set in, he says, and part P, which concerns cross-compliance, may look like even more of a headache, especially with lots of European Council directives sprinkled in for good measure. But most questions should have a fairly obvious yes or no answer, he reckons.

Likewise, part Q does not actually affect a farmer”s claim but flags up any possible livestock cross-compliance issues, particularly now that extensification payments and maximum stocking densities have been removed.

Any farmers with holdings straddling a regional border within the UK or across the boundaries of the different English areas during or since the reference period (2000-2002) need to declare this in part R.

 “Now all you have to is check the form and sign it. If a consultant has completed the form on your behalf there is a separate authorisation form to sign,” says Mr Atkin.

 andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk

Advice available for specific questions

Readers with specific queries not covered in this special feature should email them as concisely as possible to andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk by Apr 8. A selection of answers will be published in FW on Apr 15 and on our website www.fwi.co.uk Further guidance is also available from the following sources: Rural Payments Agency – 0845 603 7777 or www.rpa.gov.uk NFU – NFU Callfirst 0870 8458458 DEFRA – www.defra.gov.uk/farm/capreform/index.htm Country Land & Business Association www.cla.org.uk There are still a few dates left for the CLA CAP reform/ SFP road shows nationwide. Full details from the CLA on 0207 235 0511 Tenant Farmers Association – members should contact national officer Rebecca Marshall on 0118 930 6130 or visit www.tfa.org.uk Your land agent or farm consultant. But these are expecting a flood of enquiries in the run-up to May 16, so get in early.