EU plans to force farmers into annual bird count

Farmers may be forced to complete an annual bird survey as part of their single farm payment application.

Leaked proposals from the European Commission reveal that the idea is likely to be included in initial CAP reform proposals which will be published later in the year.

Policymakers believe that linking direct payments with bird survey results would increase taxpayer support for the CAP.

The leaked commission document suggests farmers should carry out an annual bird survey in April each year to enable them to log the range of bird species found on their farm.

Producers would then be asked to submit their findings on their annual single farm payment claim form.

A spokeswoman for the EU committee behind the scheme said: “To be sure the bird counting is accurate we will send out recording packs. These include a measuring stick, to assess the size of the bird and a set of coloured pens.”

“There is a 10cm by 10cm space on the form for farmers to sketch the birds they see and to colour them in. This is very important and must be completed for each bird,” said the spokeswoman. 

But she warned that bad drawing would incur penalties.

“Unrecognisable bird drawings will not count and the farmer may face a drawing compliance inspection. Persistently poor artistry will mean attendance at corrective sketching classes,” she said.

The NFU said it would be fighting the proposals because they were ill-conceived but accepted the issue was likely to dominate the political wrangling in the run-up to the election as the main parties seek to woo the farming vote.

At least one of the political parties is already considering the introduction of a new Decoupled Avian Relief For Tax [or DARFT] to capital gains.

“The size of the relief would be commensurate with the number of birds on the farm at the end of the tax year,” said a source. 

But one online accountant has slammed the idea as pie in the sky. “It would be impossible to plan for the tax properly,” said George Rook of Rook e-accountants.

“The annual bird migration from the southern hemisphere to the British Isles is just too unpredictable. There could be a spate of illegal bird imports to massage the figures.”