Take note of changes to soil guidance for 2006

Be sure to have the most up-to-date official SPS and ELS booklets to hand to avoid jeopardising support payments.

Running through several relevant DEFRA guides and handbooks sent to farmers Momenta’s Simon Draper noted that the 2006 version of Guidance for Soil Management, at first glance, looked almost identical to the 2005 edition.

But it contained important differences.

“The danger is that people get the new one through the post and say ‘I’ve already got that’, and chuck it in the bin,” said Mr Draper.

“But if farmers cannot produce the 2006 booklet they will be non-compliant.”

To ensure single payments they must abide by a range of Statutory Management Requirements, some of which had changed since last year’s edition, he pointed out.

One area already tripping people up was keeping proper records of sheep movements on to mainly arable farms.

“If you don’t have the paperwork you could be struggling.”

Under SMR12-15 a new range of diseases had to be notified, and SMR9 obliged claimants to adhere to specific rules on agrochemical use.

SMR11, dealing with feed and food law, remained open to interpretation, “More detail will be forthcoming later in the year.

But for now it’s important to ensure that pesticides used for crop protection are kept.”

Under cross-compliance claimants must complete a review of the soils on their holdings by next September.

Even where the land was let it was the owner’s responsibility, Mr Draper stressed.

“It should not take more than 20 minutes and once it’s done, it’s done.”

The key demand, on page seven of the review document was that any issues, such as compaction, erosion and poaching, were acknowledged.

“It is the most important page, and we recommend that you tick ‘yes’ to all the appropriate boxes.

All livestock poach and all tractors cause compaction.

If you tick ‘no’ you can’t then show how you intend to remedy any potential problems later on.

“Be as broad as possible when showing where the problems are – for example, writing ‘All my arable fields’.”

However, when completing the later pages dealing with proposed remedies, users should avoid ticking only the appropriate boxes to allow themselves room for manoeuvre, he suggested.