SCOTLAND”S SINGLE farm payment will be based on historic subsidy receipts for its lifetime, making much of the region”s Single Application Form (SAF) simpler than its English SP5 equivalent, according to consultants Tom Stewart and Francis Mordaunt.

Scottish farmers have already been allocated SFP entitlements based on their activities during the 2000-2002 reference period. To be paid the value of these entitlements they must be matched to an equal area of owned or rented land.

Farmers must establish these entitlements in 2005 by being in occupation of a minimum of 0.3ha (0.7 acres), says Mr Stewart of Strutt & Parker”s Banchory office. However, once established, payments will not be lost as long as they are claimed on within three years.

He says the SAF has a logical progression and a familiar feel to IACS forms. “SEERAD has done a good job, but the danger is that the familiarity might make people feel too easy with it and miss out bits.”

It makes sense to complete the field data sheets (IACS 3) first, which list cropping details for each field, he says. “All land under the farmer”s control, even under short-term lets, on May 16 this year must be included.”

Where possible, SEERAD will already have pre-populated columns B-G which identify each field, list its total area and the areas eligible for SFP and set-aside (column A is for the farmer”s own use). Details for any fields not claimed on previously will have to be entered manually on to a blank IACS 3 form.

Mr Stewart says this should all be self-explanatory. But he warns farmers to check column F, which says how much of a field can be used as set-aside, because the definition of what can or cannot be used has changed under the new system. “Set-aside is the key to unlocking all your payments.”

Farmers must fill in columns H and I with the code for the field use in 2005 and its eligible area. If a field has more than one use two lines are provided. Further uses must be detailed on a blank sheet. “Most of the codes apart from set-aside ones are the same as before,” says Mr Stewart.

The same process is repeated in columns J and K for fields or part fields that do not qualify for SFP because they are under non-agricultural use or are being used to grow ineligible crops like potatoes. “But all the land must still satisfy cross-compliance,” warns Mr Stewart.

He also says farmers should make sure the total in column I does not exceed that in column E, or F if the field is being used for set-aside.

Once farmers have signed off each field data sheet they can tackle the main body of the form (IACS 2). “Hopefully most farmers should be able to find their way around this,” says Mr Mordaunt of Andersons, who has been filling in the forms for his Scottish clients.

SEERAD has also provided the option of filling in the form online (from Apr 21), but Mr Mordaunt says he would be wary of doing this in the first year of a complex new scheme.

Section 1 of the IACS 2 will be pre-populated with details of how many standard and set-aside entitlements farmers can expect to receive, and their value in euros. One ha of land must be matched to each entitlement to receive payment, but in certain cases it is possible to consolidate entitlements if a farm”s area has shrunk since the reference period, says Mr Mordaunt.

This can be done in Section 2 of the form, but is not allowed where a farmer has less land because some has been sold. However, it is permitted if land has been lost due to the end of a tenancy. For this reason, Mr Mordaunt says it could make sense to delay renewing short-term grass lets until May 17 to allow consolidation.

Section 4 gives Scottish farmers the option to be paid their SFP in euros, but exchange rate risks mean this is not advisable unless somebody has payments they can make using them, he says.

After deciding in Section 5 which start date (between Oct 1 and Apr 30) to use for the 10-month period that must be adhered to in order to make a claim, farmers have to answer a series of questions about their holding”s activities in 2005, most of which should be self explanatory, according to Mr Mordaunt.

However, the phrasing of Section 6 could be misleading, he says. This should only be completed by those claiming both SFP and Less Favoured Area payments or LFA payments only.

In Sections 20 and 21, the total amount of the different categories of land being claimed on in column I of the field datasheets must be stated. Then it just remains to check everything and sign the form.