Farmers in England suffered single farm payment penalty cuts worth more than £15m in 2005, according to the Rural Payments Agency.

The RPA has released figures which show close to 20,000 businesses had their payments scaled back last year.The bulk of the cuts, in excess of £11m, appear to be because of claims being submitted for invalid areas of land.

Another 4500 business had their payments reduced by almost £1m because their claims were submitted late.

Interestingly, failing to meet all the cross-compliance rules – which producers claim are proving a heavy burden – resulted in cuts of just £555,000.

Limited

Although 1823 cross-compliance breaches were found by inspectors, 369 resulted in a warning letter and most of the others were limited to a 1% payment reduction.

The RPA has also warned that growers will get a letter in the next few days confirming their final Fruit, Vegetable and Potato authorisation allocation.

The agency has recently completed a review of FVP allocations and amended customers’ allocations where necessary. It claims the adjustments were necessary for a number of reasons, including incorrect data being entered on customer forms.

All valid claims based on 2003 cropping should receive an allocation based on that area, but those claiming for increased cropping in 2004 will receive a scaled-back allocation.

Richard Hirst, NFU horticulture board chairman, said he was relieved the allocations had finally been done. But he was furious they were a year late.

Plans

“The RPA’s notification plans will be too late for the many growers who have already had to firm up 2007 cropping plans.”

A further development from the RPA is the announcement that sugar beet growers have until 26 January to apply under hardship provisions or the national reserve to increase the value of their single farm payment.

It was announced in September 2006 that sugar support in England for 2006 (£52m) will be added entirely to SFP entitlements held by sugar beet growers, based on their contracted tonnage for quota sugar for the 2005/06 marketing year.

But where, because of business changes or exceptional circumstances, this sugar tonnage is lower than it might otherwise have been growers can apply for an increased sugar reference amount.

If sugar beet growers have not received a letter by 5 January detailing the arrangements, they should access the letter from the RPA website  or contact the RPA Customer Service Centre on 0845 603 7777.

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