Aid claims easier
SMALL farmers who receive less than k1250 (£763) a year in Brussels subsidies will soon be able to take part in a new scheme aimed at cutting red tape.
Agreed by farm ministers meeting in Luxembourg this week, the pilot project will run for three years, starting in 2002.
Under the scheme, producers will only have to fill out one form for the full period, rather than the current system of multiple applications. The flat rate annual payment will be based on the direct aid the farmer received in 2001, or the average of the three preceding years.
"Making the life of our farmers easier is at the heart of our policy," said agriculture commissioner, Franz Fischler. "But it should be made clear this scheme is no carte blanche for fraud." Systems will be put in place to prevent farmers from claiming on both the simplified scheme and through normal IACS channels.
If successful, Mr Fischler indicated that the scheme could be expanded, by raising the threshold higher than k1250. He also pointed out that, since it was not linked to production, it would go down well with the World Trade Organisation.
According to UK government sources, about 11% of farmers in England, 20% in Scotland and 21% in Wales are likely to benefit. But this is relatively low compared with the 75% of Portuguese farmers who will be eligible. *