Fruit, vegetable and potato authorisation system to be abolished

The fruit, vegetable and potato authorisation system in England is to be abolished from 2008, DEFRA announced on Wednesday (28 August).

The decision means growers will be free to use their Single Payment Scheme (SPS) land to grow fruit, vegetables and potatoes without the area restriction currently imposed by the authorisations.

NFU policy director Martin Haworth welcomed the announcement, calling it “the first step towards a radical simplification of the whole payment system”.

“The authorisations have been a bureaucratic burden for farmers and the RPA. There only needs to be one type of entitlement, so the more we can simplify the system, the better. The next step will be to abolish set-aside,” he said.

Bidwells’ Carl Atkin said: “It will avoid the need for back-to-back land ‘swaps’ which were necessary to ensure ‘matching’ of FVP and non FVP land and entitlements where farmers let land to third party growers. Often there was the subsequent need to have ‘contract back’ arrangements on the ‘non FVP’ land, which has added much unnecessary paperwork to the process.

“However farmers who allow third party vegetable growers onto their land still need to be careful and ensure they meet the obligations of the 10-month rule if they wish to claim single payment on that land,” he added.

Norfolk grower Chris Harrold said doing away with the authorisations would make his life much easier. He grows 100ha of vining peas alongside 170ha of potatoes, plus cereals and sugar beet. “Under the current system, we’re really struggling to get new vining pea land, as growers don’t want to go through the hassle of buying entitlements.”

Strong cereal prices also meant there was a danger many growers would be tempted away from such alternative crops, so there had never been a better time remove this hurdle, he added. “We will be seeking a significant price increase (25%) for vining peas to be able to compete with cereals.”