FARM LEADERS in England and Wales are piling on pressure for cross-compliance plans to be toned down.

The Tenant Farmers Association said that current proposals “smack of Stalinist land organisation”.

George Dunn, TFA chief executive, said he is concerned that DEFRA is trying to be too ambitious and attach too many conditions to the new single farm payment.

“It seems to want to articulate a land use and impose it on every acre of the country,” he said.

“We believe it needs to be looking at something rather more basic than what has been proposed.”

Mr Dunn said his response to DEFRA‘s consultation on cross-compliance, which he plans to submit next week, would also make it clear that the TFA believes the government will be going beyond its legal powers if it introduces 2m uncultivated strips.

“The 2m margin is about creating a landscape feature, whereas the regulation is about protecting them,” he said.

“When you get down to the West Country, this could be a real penalty on smaller farms. It seems to us rather a broad and blunt tool.”

Mr Dunn added he is also particularly concerned about how DEFRA intends to make sure farmers comply with the rules.

“We need to know a lot more about inspections and enforcement. We are concerned inspectors are going to be running around farms all year round,” he said.

The issue of inspection procedures has also been raised by NFU Cymru in its submission to the Welsh Assembly.

“Unless the assembly can simplify inspection procedures and make cross-compliance practical and manageable at farm level the reform package will be regarded as a failure,” said president Peredur Hughes.

The English NFU is yet to submit its official response, but members in the East Midlands have produced their own version which they also intend to submit to DEFRA.

Proposals to force farmers to draw up soil management plans are “an affront to good husbandry and stewardship”, said regional food and farming adviser, Simon Fisher.

“This may be justified for fragile and at risk soils, but not across the board.”

But Mr Fisher said by far the most unpopular planned measure among East Midlands farmers was the 2m uncultivated margin next to arable fields.

“It has no place in cross-compliance,” he said.

“It has also caused confusion, as there are additional proposals about set-aside strips next to sensitive living habitats such as water courses and hedges.”

A DEFRA spokeswoman could not comment on the views, as the consultation was still open.

“We will take our decisions based on the entirety of the responses we receive,” she added.