By Mike Abram

DELAYS AND problems with registering land on the Rural Land Register are frustrating many arable farmers” efforts to complete single farm payment and entry level stewardship forms before their respective May deadlines.

The delays are particularly critical for ELS applications, which require all land to be registered on the RLR before submission, says Sussex consultant and FW Farmer Focus writer Patrick Godwin. “It doesn”t look like DEFRA is going to remove that requirement [as called for by the NFU].

“If you haven”t got your maps it will really slow things up – and lots of people wanted to get in the first round. Cynically, you could argue DEFRA is doing it [delaying maps] deliberately to spread the application workload.”

DEFRA BLAMED

Norfolk grower Chris Harrold is one of the many frustrated by the delay, and blames DEFRA for not making it clear much earlier that more land would be eligible under ELS and need registering on the RLR. “If I had known, I would have identified that land this time last year.”

He has about 60ha of extra land in areas such as woodlands, farmyards and a World War II airfield, that previously did not attract any support payment, which would now qualify under ELS. “I”m waiting in limbo. The ELS should be worth 30,000 across my whole farm, which is very important to me.”

Growers have two options if they don”t have final maps – apply at a later date and miss out on at least three months” of payments or use earlier maps that didn”t include all eligible land and lose the payment on that land for the duration of the agreement.

“It could cost growers thousands,” says NFU south-west director Anthony Gibson.

For larger farms, in particular, a delay in entering could have cashflow implications, says Mr Godwin. “Not being to able to sign up in time for the first payment could be a particular blow to cashflow in a year when the SFP is also being delayed.”

The latest digital maps are not necessarily required to make single farm payment applications, stresses Mr Gibson. “As long as you have previous maps with accurate information you can use them to apply.”

Any errors should be able to be corrected retrospectively, believes Mr Godwin. “My understanding is that growers without the correct maps can put down the areas from whatever maps they have been working from in the past, and DEFRA will issue the correct amount of entitlement.

“If growers have bought areas of land that don”t have maps, then you need to go back to Ordnance Survey maps or a mapping website (such as www.magic.gov.uk). You just have to show you have best endeavoured to get the areas you are claiming for.”

RPA helpline frustration, see News, p6.

mike.abram@rbi.co.uk