GET READY FOR
The extensification scheme
which arrived at the start
of the year will place a
new burden of paperwork
on farmers. For those who
are still hazy about the
details, Strutt and Parker
farm business consultant
Andrew Graham runs
through the details
LIKE the curates egg, the new Extensification Payment Scheme (EPS) is good in parts. Introduced at the beginning of the year as part of the Agenda 2000 CAP reforms it is much more precise about stocking rates. You can no longer ignore heifers and calves over 6 months old in calculating stocking rates, and all animals now count, rather than just the ones you claimed on. It is a premium now paid to truly extensive livestock farmers and the new rules close a lot of the possibilities to manipulate the system.
Livestock units for EPS
• Suckler Cows: 1LU
• Dairy Cows: 1LU for every 5730 litres of quota at March 31 each year
• Sheep: 0.15 LU for every unit of quota claimed
• Steers, Bulls and Heifers over 24 months old: 1 LU
• Steers, Bulls and Heifers 6 to 24 months old: 0.6 LU
• Payments for the 2000 Scheme are based on stocking rates of up to 1.6 LU/ha (£41.36) and up to 2 LU/ha (£20.68).
From here on, EPS begins to become just a little complex. For starters, the old Extensification Scheme was automatic. No special claim had to be made and MAFF made the calculations on the basis of IACS information already in its possession.
But EPS is actually two schemes, the standard one and the simplified one, and farmers must now decide for themselves which option they want to take.
Under the first, they have to tell the Ministry how many qualifying animals are on the holding at each of six check dates, chosen retrospectively by MAFF during the year. The first of these dates has already been announced – February 27th – and another will be due very shortly, although it will not actually be announced until this month. Yet the declaration forms, which will have to be completed, will not be sent to farmers until July when they will be required to fill out the totals for the first three check dates in the year. The same dates apply throughout the UK.
To enter the simplified scheme a producer declares on the annual IACS form that he will not exceed the stocking rates on any day during the year.
The drawback to the simplified scheme will be its inflexible nature. A producer cannot pull out if he later finds that his stocking rate will be too great, which suggests that this part of EPS will be restricted to those hill farmers with very extensive systems who can be pretty sure that at no time during the year will stocking rates exceed the limits of the scheme.
Withdrawal from the standard scheme is allowed at any time, which covers the problem of exceeding the stocking rate, but this part of the scheme is much more onerous in terms of administration and record keeping.
The six check dates will be announced retrospectively and for each of them the farmer will have to be able to accurately declare the number of LUs then present on his holding. That will make the keeping of accurate and up-to-date records crucial because the demand from MAFF for declaration will come without warning.
In addition, in suckler herds, correct recording and monitoring of calf ages will be vital because, on reaching six months of age, each calf becomes 0.6 LU. (Up to six months they are a nil LU).
What this boils down to is that the producer cannot simply go into the market and buy additional animals if he finds he has plenty of grass or the animals themselves look cheap. To do so would be to risk the Extensification Premium and MAFF has made it plain that it will be taking a very close interest in records, particularly where there is a suspicion that cattle are being moved around to keep the stocking rate in line.
A further consideration is the treatment of milk quota. Previously the quota held at April 1 was used to calculate the stocking rate for Extensification Premium purposes. The yield figure is increased from 5196 to 5730 litres but the more important change is that the date has been pushed back by a day to March 31st.
This means that all quota on the holding, including litres bought in or leased at any time during the year, will go into the calculation with major implications for stocking rates where there is also a beef enterprise. Previously only the owned quota was important with therefore much lower LU equivalents, as the dairy herd took up less forage acres.
Another change is that forage crops such as maize grown on eligible or ineligible land can no longer be claimed as part of the forage area for EPS purposes although they can be claimed towards the stocking limits for the Suckler Cow and Beef Special Premium Schemes.
Overall, the new EPS is going to be more difficult and time-consuming for farmers to administer at farm level, particularly when taken in tandem with the new Slaughter Scheme which is equally complex and demanding of records. The government insists that it is committed to cutting the red tape in farming, but EPS is not the best of beginnings.
Introduced at the beginning of the year, the EPS allocates LUs (Livestock Unit) values to sheep, dairy cows, sucklers and bulls/heifers of different ages.