Farmers in England are missing out on millions of pounds in EU payments because they are not keeping adequate records.
Figures released by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) today show that poor record keeping continues to be the major factor in cross compliance breaches which cost farmers £2.33 million in reductions to their Single Payment Scheme (SPS) payments last year.
RPA Operations Director Paul Caldwell said:
“RPA is currently working very hard to prepare for the new CAP but we are also committed to delivering our usual high quality routine services.
“Release of these figures is just one of the ways that we help farmers and the agricultural industry as part of our ongoing commitment to support rural economies.
“The aim is to make farmers aware of the most common errors to help them to avoid future penalties and keep more of their vital SPS funds.
“The data clearly shows that, similar to 2012, failure to keep adequate records was a major cause of breaches across a number of cross compliance requirements.”
The figures show there 2,972 failures last year. Because of poor performance on soil protection and nitrate vulnerable zones in 2012, the Agency was tasked under EU rules with carrying out extra inspections in those areas last year. These additional inspections generated 711 of the total breaches recorded.
As in 2012, cattle keepers attracted the highest number breaches (810) for failing to report deaths and movements; incorrect reporting of movements and animals being found without passports.
Failure to keep accurate and up to date records, leaving temporary field heaps in position for more than 12 months or too close to water courses meant Nitrate Vulnerable Zone breaches were the second most common failing at 562 (328 of them as a result of the extra inspections).
Soil Protection Review issues came a close third, producing 535 failures - 383 of these generated by the additional inspections.
Issues with animal medicine and mortality records saw a rise from 95 breaches in 2012 to 148 last year.
Other areas where breaches increased include sheep and goat reporting errors, up 34 on last year; farmers cultivating or applying fertilizer or pesticides in the protection zones around either hedgerows or watercourses increasing from 184 to 221; while farmers failing to comply with a water abstraction licence saw a rise of 23 breaches.
Read a full breakdown of the figures and further background information.
The term ‘cross-compliance’ refers to the requirement for farmers to comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and keep their land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) in order to qualify for the full single payment and other direct payments.
The SMRs relate to the areas of public, animal and plant health, environment and animal welfare. The standards of GAEC relate to the issues of soil erosion, soil organic matter, soil structure, ensuring a minimum level of maintenance, avoiding the deterioration of habitats and protection and management of water.
The Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2014 is available on GOV.UK and includes key things farmers need to know and a useful reminder of the important diary dates.
Further information is available from the Farming Advice Service.