DEFRA consults on SFP minimum area

DEFRA has proposed cutting the number of holdings eligible for single farm payments by up to 17000.

The move is a drive to reduce the cost of red tape.

It comes after the department drew criticism from opposition MPs for paying minute claims to the so-called pony paddock farmers at disproportionate costs to the taxpayer.

Each claim, some of which were for as little as £5, costs up to £742 to administer.

Now DEFRA has launched a consultation which suggests a minimum claim size could be introduced and that this should be based on the area size of the holding.

A DEFRA spokeswoman explained: “A cut of all those claiming on a holding of just one hectare would exclude 1500 from the payment scheme.”

That would save about £1.2m a year in administration costs incurred by the Rural Payment Agency and the farming industry, according to DEFRA calculations.

“If that minimum holding level was raised to five hectares then 17000 landowners would no longer be allowed to claim and that would save about £14m a year,” the spokeswoman told Farmers Weekly .

The RPA confirmed that a significant number of SFP claims are worth around half of what it costs to process them. There were 14,645 payments under £400 in 2007 and 636 under £50. There were five payments made under £5.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 22 July.

Details on the consultation can be found on DEFRA’s website.

Have your say on our FWiSpace forum. Does it make sense to raise the minimum claim size? Who will the winners and losers be?

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