LAND USED for horse grazing can now be used to claim the single farm payment, but the consequences of failing to cross-comply are tempering the initial enthusiasm from landowners.

The consequences of breaching cross-compliance regulations on a small area of land, like a pony paddock, could be severe, said Jeremy Moody, adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Advisers, because any fines would be applied to a holding‘s total claim.

So, for example, if one small grass field on 1000ha (2471-acre) arable unit was found to be in breach of cross-compliance the fine could be considerable.

Mr Moody said he  knew of at least one case where a farmer had gone so far as to rent out a field to his wife to ensure it wasn‘t included on his own single farm payment claim form (SPP5).

But Colin Hedley, conservation adviser at the Country Land and Business Association, reckoned this was going too far.

“We know there could be issues with soil management and weed control but with a little care people should be able to prove they are cross-complying.

“I hope that DEFRA accepts not all of a farm can be in perfect condition all of the time.”

According to DEFRA, failure to cross comply could result in a claimant being docked 3% of their total SFP claim in the first instance, and up to 15% for future violations.

If the lapses are considered intentional the entire payment could eventually be forfeited.