Taste of life after IACS

THE ROAD shows and the workshops are in full swing. Having attended some, I am beginning to get a taste of life after IACS.

The single payment scheme, which will provide the lifeline the industry so badly needs, is decoupled from food production. Unlike IACS, it will compensate and encourage us to think more environmentally.

 Looking at our countryside that everyone seems to want to preserve, we do not seem to have done too bad a job over the past 1000 years.

 To claim SPS, all eligible land must be declared this year to attract an entitlement which must be activated to generate a payment and that is the key message that DEFRA is trying to promote. It”s a one-off process, so don”t miss the boat.

Having realised this all too late, many have registered parcels of land using IACS 22 forms and await confirmation from the Rural Land Registry, which has been snowed under. Consequently, paperwork and digital maps have not been returned to many applicants.

But the lack of maps need not prevent establishing entitlement and applying for the single farm payment. DEFRA has made it clear that farmers can apply to the scheme declaring eligible land that has not been registered on the RLR, but that registration must take place before payment is made next year.

The other condition is cross-compliance consisting of statutory management requirements and the maintenance of agricultural holdings in good agricultural and environmental condition. GAEC standards and SMRs are detailed within the cross-compliance handbooks that have fallen on our doormats and will take some wading through.

 The size of the payment is not known, but it is clear that the single payment will not be as much as IACS due to modulation, 5% this year and 10% next year. It is money we lose to pay for, among other things, environment stewardship, or as DEFRA puts it: “Look after your land and be rewarded.” I prefer to think of it as filling in more forms to retain what should be ours.

 Hot on the heels of SPS we have entry level stewardship. DEFRA describes it as a straightforward approach to supporting the good stewardship of the countryside.

My introduction to ELS was through Matthew Ward from Strutt & Parker. Mr Ward has been involved with the SPS and environmental impacts for some time, and first visited Easton Lodge last year. Together we have prepared some notes for ELS which will form the basis of an article shortly to appear in FW”s sister title Crops.

I have also attended a presentation organised by the Rutland Training Group at which Lesley Kelly from FWAG instructed us on the application process, how to calculate our target points and how to win them. In this issue, our Business Section tests the RSPB”s new CD Rom, designed to introduce the ELS, at our Sacrewell Lodge farm.

Last week, with the help of Matthew Ward”s original notes, I tried to calculate how we could reach our points target. This is the area of eligible land on the holding multiplied by 30; achieved by adopting management activities from a menu of options.

 We used best available knowledge because the full application pack has only just been printed. But only land registered on the RLR is eligible for ELS, so those with digital maps still to come will have to wait.

For Easton Lodge, we have estab<00AD>lished that we need 6757 points worth 1 a point. This is calculated by multiplying our area of 225.22ha x 30. By opting to complete all four management plans, as well as the compulsory environmental farm record, we can pick up 40% of our points total.

Hedgerow management can win a further 22%. But then it starts getting more difficult and begins to bite into productive arable land and profitability, which for a figure under 7000 we are loath to do.

Nonetheless, I am prepared to consider 2m, 4m and 6m buffer strips on less productive land, the latter with pollen and nectar mixes to win extra points. Management of field corners, beetle banks, skylark plots, maintenance of woodland edges, conservation headlands and brassica fodder crops following overwintered stubbles are all ruled in, and slowly we begin to hit the target.

 If your aim is to win the cash without pain, then you will be disappointed. This is not an easy option, filling in forms, measuring up boundaries and colouring maps is one thing, but putting all this into practise will be quite another.

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