FARMERS IN Scotland and Wales who were disadvantaged by the allocation of single farm payment entitlements can now submit claims to the national reserve.

Categories covering investments, leased land, purchase of leased land, re-conversion of production and new entrants have a closing date for applications of Mar 14.

Applications for two further categories – dairy farmers” hardship and transfer of leased land – will be accepted until May 16.

SFP entitlements in Scotland and Wales are based on historic support levels in the reference years 2000-2002. And, according to NFU Scotland, many farm businesses developed or expanded in subsequent years, leaving them potentially disadvantaged by the switch to the new decoupled support regime.

The national reserve is funded by scaling back payments to all producers. Although the initial scale-back is likely to be 3%, this figure could rise depending on demand, warns union chief executive Andy Robertson.

“The key question for farmers to ask themselves is whether the activity on their farm, which would have affected CAP subsidy, increased since the reference period,” said Mr Robertson. “If the answer is yes, it is very likely that, with supporting evidence, they can make a successful claim to the national reserve.

” The Scottish Executive, which sent details to farmers this week, has stated there will be no automatic issue of national reserve entitlements. Producers will have to submit an application and meet strict criteria.

Mr Robertson urged farmers to deal with their claims as soon as possible. “This is the only chance to ensure that your single farm payment is fair because the figure arrived at this year will be set in stone for years to come.

” The union has produced a guide to the national reserve which will be sent to members in the coming days.

FUW spokesman Alan Morris said the union”s headquarters was working flat out to brief staff at county offices on information from the Welsh Assembly about changes to the support system.

“This is very necessary because lambing and the early spring cattle sales are imminent and there is a risk that important forms will put on one side until the last minute,” added Mr Morris.

NFU Cymru president Peredur Hughes said: “It is vitally important that members are aware of all the important dates in the switch to single farm payments.”