By Emma Penny
BEEF producers opting to claim extensification on their IACS form are warned to choose the standard scheme rather than the simplified option.
Industry experts and organisations warn that choosing the simplified scheme will eliminate any flexibility in stocking rate, and could lead to greater penalties if set rates are exceeded.
According to consultancy company Laurence Gould, extensification will no longer be paid automatically on beef special premium (BSP) and suckler cow premium (SCP) claims, but must be applied for separately.
This means filling in section V of the IACS Area Aid Application Base Form – which must be submitted by 15 May – and producers will have to choose between the standard or simplified scheme.
MLC beef analyst Duncan Sinclair says beef producers will need to proceed carefully when filling in IACS forms. “Seek professional advice if you are unsure about anything.”
He believes that opting for the simplified scheme will sign away any stocking rate flexibility at the outset.
“Under the simplified scheme, stocking rates must be guaranteed to be under extensification limits every day throughout the year.
“This might be an option for very extensive farms with large acreages of grass and few cattle, but its dangerous on many farms.
National Beef Association chairman Robert Robertson echoes that view.
“Escaping the trouble of submitting six back-dated stock counts by signing a statutory declaration that stocking rates will never exceed the 2 or 1.6 unit/ha maximum looks tempting.
“But producers must be aware that if they suddenly find they are carrying more stock than expected, they cannot change their minds and opt for the standard scheme instead.
“If these herds are committed to the scheme through an inspectors visit, they will, at best, forfeit their extensification money if MAFF judges the breach of conditions to be no fault of their own.
“At worst, they could face additional penalties if it thinks that topping the maximum stocking rate could have been avoided.”
Mr Sinclair believes that if theres any doubt, producers should choose the standard scheme.
“Theres no difference in the money paid for each level of extensification between the simplified and standard scheme, but it is much more flexible.”
Under the standard scheme, stocking rate is assessed on six retrospective dates throughout the year.
This means that where limits have been exceeded in the first few counts of the year, younger cattle can be sold before they count for one livestock unit, or cull animals can be disposed of to reduce stocking density.
Animals between six months and two years old count as 0.6LSU, while those over two years old count as 1LSU.
“At least under the standard scheme you can tinker with stocking rates to ensure you fall under the annual limits,” says Mr Sinclair.
But consultants are worried that some producers have yet to work out whether they will be eligible for extensification payments.
Laurence Goulds Robert Hall warns that for some, foregoing extensification and claiming more BSP might be a better option.
“Some producers, having always claimed extensification, believe they cant do without it now, and are paying high rents for grass.
They might be better off not claiming extensification, not renting grass and opting to claim more BSP. The sums will be different for every farm, but they need to be done,” he urges.