FEAR THAT outdoor pig units would find it hard to cross-comply under the single farm payment scheme have eased.

One of the main challenges facing outdoor pig production under the new SFP scheme was the level of soil erosion.

Outdoor pigs soon root-up green cover leaving large areas of bare earth which can be susceptible to soil erosion during periods of heavy rainfall.

But the National Pig Association has received confirmation that DEFRA does not wish to penalise welfare-friendly outdoor pig units unless there are significant breaches of cross compliance rules.

This view is confirmed by Nigel Penlington, a Meat and Livestock Commission specialist on environmental matters.

He says that DEFRA wish to work with the outdoor pig industry and that all agencies recognise them as a valuable break crop for farmers of light land.

The Environment Agency will not be instructed to take an over-regulated view of cross compliance rules on outdoor pig land.

Ian Campbell, NPA regional manager, has added that DEFRA will exercise a “light touch” in the overall interpretation of all cross compliance rules.

Only persistent or major breaches of cross compliance rules may lead to a reduction in SFP rates.

Outdoor pig units now account for an estimated 35% of breeding and productions systems in the UK.

But as long as units are not overstocked or kept on unsuitable steep sites, outdoor pig units should not have any problems complying with the terms of the SFP system.

The regional area payment part of the SFP will be worth about £8/acre this year, rising to an estimated £65/acre by 2012, subject to modulation and other deductions.

With most outdoor pig unit rents in the £150-200/acre range, this represents a valuable contribution.

In many cases landowners will seek to claim and retain the SFP income themselves and this should be reflected in lower overall.