THE SINGLE farm payment is only weeks away, but many smaller farmers are still not taking it seriously, according to a surveyor with Cluttons.

Giles Mounsey-Heysham warned that smaller farmers, especially livestock and dairy farmers were “burying their heads in the sand” if they thought they could keep their heads down and ignore the changes to the CAP.

Using examples from his own area of the north of England, he said the bigger farmers, concentrated in the south, were more “savvy” when it came to the single farm payment.

But Giles Wordsworth, also a Cluttons consultant, said that there was real ignorance of the SFP among a majority of all farmers.

“Many of them forget that their actions next year affect the next eight years: they”re expecting to be slightly spoon-fed,” he said.

Mike Churcher, agricultural business manager with Lloyds TSB, said he was worried at the number of farmers still taking a “wait and see” approach.

He urged them to consider the new subsidy payment schedule that will be introduced with the SFP, which could hit farmers accustomed to payments early in the new year. They may now have to wait until June for the first subsidy cheques to come through.

“Farmers must ensure they are aware of cashflow issues relating to the SFP,” he said. “Some farmers are already thinking of cropping patterns in 2006, to massage cashflow.”

Meanwhile, Ian Kenny, head of agricultural policy at NatWest Bank, urged farmers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland not to be complacent just because they were receiving historical payments.

“Don”t ignore what”s happening in England,” he warned. “Your businesses must be in line by the time the flat rate comes in – 2012 at the latest.”