Farmland in England© Rex Features

The latest rules covering the ability of genuine farmers to claim CAP payments will come as a “big relief to many”, according to the NFU.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) published its latest CAP reform countdown leaflet in December, giving further details of how the new “active farmer” requirements will operate in England.

Genuine farmers and growers have been concerned that the new rules could penalise farm businesses and their ability to claim payments under the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) from 2015.

See also: Defra relaxes ‘active farmer’ test for new BPS

In particular, farm businesses that had diversified and also operated certain non-agricultural activities as part of their businesses may have been caught out by the new rules.

In its latest release, the fourth in its series of CAP updates, the RPA said farmers and landowners with at least 36ha (89 acres) of eligible land would qualify as “active farmers” and be able to claim payments.

The NFU said the announcement would greatly release the burden for many, but not all, farmers.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “This development is a move in the right direction for us as it reduces the burden on genuine farmers and growers and will come as a big relief to many.

“However, there are still many businesses that will impacted by the increased burden brought in by these new active farmer rules as well as other features of the new CAP schemes.

“The NFU will be working to reduce the burden on the industry of these rules at the earliest opportunity.

“This change to active farmer will also help to lift some of the pressures on the RPA to validate the BPS claims and make timely payments that can be made from 1 December 2015 onwards.”

“This will come as an enormous relief to farmers and estate owners who were beginning to get extremely concerned about the potential classification of their businesses as not being active farmers.” Andrew Bays, BCM partner

BCM, specialists in rural property operating throughout southern England, said entirely valid farm businesses running large farming operations as well as off site property investment and rental income, feared being penalised.

Andrew Bays, a partner at BCM, said: “This will come as an enormous relief to farmers and estate owners who were beginning to get extremely concerned about the potential classification of their businesses as not being active farmers.

“This announcement (36ha) greatly simplifies the issue and is entirely fair as it makes it clear that bona fide farming businesses over the size limit can continue to claim the basic payment irrespective of their other activities.”