20 February 1998
Changing farms trading title cost £3000 in lost premium

By Catherine Hughes

CHANGING a farms trading title can jeopardise subsidy payments and the NFU recommends seeking professional advice first.

The case of Shropshire farmers Mark and Rose Lewis, who run 20 suckler cows and 60 sheep on 21ha (52 acres) at the Grove, Hollyhurst, Leebotwood, highlights the problems that can occur. MAFF has just rejected their suckler cow premium claim, worth £3000.

The couple formed a partnership last year. The farm was previously in Mr Lewiss name. Although they informed the Inland Revenue, banks, accountants and MAFF of their change of status last May, they forgot to complete a quota transfer document.

Mrs Lewis then applied for the SCP in August. But, last week -five months later, and now too late to reapply – she received a letter from MAFF saying the application had been rejected.

The sheep quota application, however, was paid in full because Mr Lewis completed the forms.

According to MAFF, there is no suckler cow quota available under the partnership name of M J & R J Lewis. The news comes as a further blow to the Lewis family, already burdened with poor cattle prices and the extra feed costs they now face because they have held on to cattle longer than usual in the hope that trade would improve.

“Weve lost £3000, just like that – over a simple mistake,” said Mrs Lewis. “We thought we had done what we were supposed to do – by telling them.

“And its money we depend on to buy feed in April for the cows that calve in June. And it pays for the fertiliser too.”

The couple said that MAFF was very sympathetic about the issue. But they believe there should be some leniency, especially because the problem was caused by a genuine mistake.

The NFU said the Lewiss case was typical of a growing problem, about which discussions with MAFF were under way. Hill farmers who changed their business status were at particular risk, because they made more support applications than other sectors. The union said professional advice should be sought to avoid problems.

MAFF has said the transfer of quota from an old to a new business must be made before the new business submits a claim. If not, the quota holder may be in breach of the rules and could be liable to having the quota withdrawn without compensation.

The ministrys North Mercia Region, which dealt with the Lewiss case, said anyone whose claim was rejected could appeal. Mrs Lewis now plans to do that.

  • For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 20-26 February, 1998

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