DEFRA has decided that for the 2006 scheme year farmers will be able to designate two different start dates under the 10-month rule.

The window within which farmers may set the start dates for their 10-month period(s) will remain as 1 Oct and 30 April.

However, on their 2006 application forms, farmers will, if they wish, now be able to designate two different start dates for different parcels of land on their holding rather than just one date for their entire holding.

DEFRA has said this change may be of particular help to those farmers who lease land at different times during the year.

For those who do not specify a start date, the Rural Payments Agency will default to 1 Feb, 2006 for all land on the holding.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach said ministers had listened to what farmers had said about arrangements in 2005.

“[We] are anxious to ensure that we take every available opportunity to minimise the remaining restrictions and bureaucracy that farmers face.

“I am pleased, therefore, to be able to provide farmers with the additional flexibility to choose two start dates under the 10-month rule.”

Every Single Payment Scheme entitlement on which a farmer wishes to claim payment must be supported by an equivalent area of eligible agricultural land.

That land must be at the farmers’ disposal for at least the 10-month period nominated on their Single Payment Scheme application form.