The cross-compliance penalty system in Wales is under investigation after it emerged that form-filling mistakes cost Welsh farmers more than £2m from their single farm payments.
According to research by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, mistakes made while competing application forms for single farm payments and other EU schemes have rocketed by 175%.
It has now emerged that the increase comes because the Welsh Assembly Government was forced to change its system after an EC audit criticised the level of financial reductions for cross-compliance breaches before and including 2008.
Wales’ rural affairs minister, Elin Jones, says that the penalty system now meets the audit and regulatory requirements that negligent breaches must be penalised at 3%.
The National Assembly for Wales’ rural development sub-committee chairman, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, has pledged that his committee will investigate how the application of the rules in Wales compares to other EU national and regional governments.
“If the research shows that the Welsh Government is applying the rules more strictly than other governments and that farmers in Wales are receiving bigger and more numerous fines than those in other countries, then the sub-committee will consider whether we need to carry out an inquiry into the matter,” says Mr Thomas.
FUW president Gareth Vaughan says he looks forward to the results of the investigation but, in the meantime, urges farmers to be meticulous in their form-filling.
“Check, double-check and triple-check everything which relates to cross-compliance and the single payment, and do not assume that commonsense or proportionality applies,” he says.
“Even the most minor error, such as a tick in the wrong box or being a day late retagging animals, can result in massive financial penalties.”