The number of farmers failing to meet cross-compliance requirements dropped in 2006, but cattle identification remains a key stumbling point.
Figures from the Rural Payments Agency show that 1679 holdings failed to meet one or more cross-compliance conditions. That is almost 9% down on 2005 – despite a 50% rise in the number of farms inspected.
However, the main reasons for failure remained the same, with 1419 farms falling foul of the cattle identification and tracing requirements. Other problem areas were record keeping in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones sheep and goat identification and the 2m protection zone for hedgerows and watercourses.
“These figures show that the industry is generally compliant, and the majority of breaches are considered minor,” said Richard Wordsworth, single payment scheme adviser at the NFU. “This is encouraging, but we have asked the RPA for more detail so we can understand and learn from the areas where people are failing. It is in everyone’s interest to stop breaches happening in the first place.”
Cattle identification proved such a problem in 2005 that the RPA stepped up the number of cattle inspections, so that the total number of cross-compliance assessments increased from 1% of the 109,000 single payment claimants to 1.5% in 2006. On top of this, 10% of cattle producers have to be checked annually under separate regulations, the results from which are fed back into cross compliance statistics.
However, despite cattle identification still proving to be a major failing point, the RPA has announced that it is to return to a 1% inspection rate in 2007. “That is a great relief, because it was possible that further rises would turn into a vicious circle,” said Mr Wordsworth. “The question is whether people are not working within the rules, or whether the rules unworkable?”