COMMON LAND farmers may be able to claim a bigger single farm payment if DEFRA approves proposals submitted by the south west NFU.

Regional director Anthony Gibson said all people who have common rights associated with their property, were eligible for the single farm payment, even if they had no stock to graze the land.

“The non-farmers will be allocated the ability to claim the SFP in proportion to their [common] rights. But they won”t be able to claim the SFP because they”re not farmers,” Mr Gibson explained.

“If we don”t address this anomaly, anything up to three-quarters of the payment will stay in the government”s coffers,” he said.

For example, about 200 people held common rights on Minchinhampton Common, Stroud, Glos, but only a handful of producers actually farmed the land, said Mr Gibson.

Under current rules they would miss out on the vast majority of the common”s SFP entitlement.

LEASE

Mr Gibson has proposed that DEFRA allow Commons Associations to lease in the SFP entitlement from the non-farming right holders. They could then let it out to farmers to enable them to claim the money.

“We”re trying to get a workable system so that the active graziers are not disadvantaged. We hope that everybody will be happy with this.”

If DEFRA approves the proposal, then Commons Associations across the country would be able to adopt the system. However, some areas may need to modify the plans to suit their common”s structure, said Mr Gibson.

For example, large common areas like Dartmoor may have a live register, whereby commoners pay the Commoners Council to retain their rights each year.

If DEFRA insisted on reverting to the original register it would be out-of-date and thousands of rights of entitlement would be left unclaimed, he said.