This week was the deadline to submit claims for the Basic Payment Scheme. Defra secretary, Liz Truss, writes on farmers’ efforts to work through the process and her stance on CAP reform.
I am glad that by midnight on Monday we had received 84,500 claims out of an estimated 86,000 farmers eligible to apply, with a few more forms still to process from drop-in centres.
Given the complexity of the CAP and given that we only received confirmation of some details from the EU at the last moment, this is a real achievement by both farmers and by Defra and Rural Payments Agency staff, who have worked tirelessly to make the application process as simple and practical as possible.
I appreciate the patience farmers showed while we disentangled the rules so they could be presented clearly.
I also understand that the move to paper-based claims caused additional effort for many applicants.
The decision was made because getting the claims in on time was so important and we did not want to take any risks.
Seven hundred people manned the RPA helpline, answering more than 90,000 calls, and others manned 50 drop-in centres across the country, from Alnwick to Truro.
Mobile satellite vans visited 140 towns and villages and dozens of individual farms in the most remote spots.
The efforts of farmers and RPA staff mean the agency expects the majority of farmers will receive their money in December when the payments window opens, and the vast majority by the end of January.
For those who have not yet been able to send their forms in, late claims can still be accepted until 10 July with a penalty.
Farmers are now shifting their attention to the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which opens on 1 July.
“Food and farming is a powerhouse of our economy, with great potential for further growth. It has already created 200,000 jobs over the past four years and contributes £100bn to the economy.”
It is a £900m opportunity to fund improvements to the natural environment and I hope as many farmers as possible will explore the opportunities when we publish more information next week.
Food and farming is a powerhouse of our economy, with great potential for further growth. It has already created 200,000 jobs over the past four years and contributes £100bn to the economy.
Its achievements are due to the world-class quality of our farmers and I will do everything I can to clear barriers to progress, particularly Brussels rules.
I will be making the case to EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan when he visits next week that regulation must not hinder food producers.
If we keep pushing in Europe with specific proposals we can get results and I am glad some of our ideas are already being taken up, such as an agreement from the commission to broaden the range of hedges that can count towards greening targets. But further progress is needed.
I want more flexible inspections, such as using geotagged photographs taken by farmers’ cameras or smartphones to show where crops were grown rather than the crazy scenario of farmers leaving stubble for when the inspector calls.
I want a full review of greening, including the three-crop rule, and more decisions on issues such as pesticides and GM to be taken in Britain.
We can lead the world in food and farming and I am determined to make it happen.