In response to a number of queries following the ongoing floods in the north of England in December 2015, here are some useful reminders for those who are concerned about their BPS payments.
Farmers, who find themselves in exceptional financial hardship as a result of the flooding, should either call the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) or they can contact one of the various farming help organisations, who can provide holistic packages to support farmers in this situation, such as:
- Farming Community Network (FCN): 03000 111 999
- Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI): 0808 281 9490
- National Farmers Union (NFU): 01695 554900 or fax: 01695 554901. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NFUNorthWest
RPA will not carry out any inspections on farms directly affected by flooding until the situation eases.
Reporting animal movements
It’s important that where livestock is at risk from flooding farmers move their animals to a dry location as soon as possible, providing it is safe for them to do so.
Where, due to imminent flooding, keepers have already moved or need to move any livestock that do not yet have a full passport or have been issued with a notice of registration (CPP35), the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) will provide a movement licence for this purpose – to get one, call them on 0345 050 1234.
If keepers have already moved or still need to move their livestock inside the 6 day standstill period due to the onset of flooding, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will licence these moves. Keepers should contact APHA on 03000 200 301.
Livestock keepers affected by the floods may not be able to report livestock births, movements and deaths within regulatory deadlines and this has the potential to affect cross compliance. Keepers should update their farm records and report their animal births, movements, and deaths as soon as practically possible. They should contact BCMS if they have any problems.
Cross compliance rules state that penalties may not be applied if a non-compliance is as a result of ‘force majeure’ or exceptional circumstances. Livestock keepers wishing to use these provisions should write to RPA within 15 working days of being able to do so, setting out the circumstances.
TB testing delays
Providing cattle keepers tell APHA they have not or cannot complete their TB test due to flooding, no cross compliance action will be triggered.
Other Cross Compliance requirements
For there to be a breach of cross compliance, any action or inaction must be directly attributable to the farmer. This will safeguard farmers in respect of many of the potential non-compliances they are currently facing. For example, if landscape features protected by GAECs such as stone walls or hedgerows are washed away or Public Rights of Way may have become obstructed.
Farmers are also reminded that under the GAECs, they are exempt from the rules where any action is carried out by statutory body acting under its statutory authority. For example utility companies carrying out electricity, water, gas or highway works.
Many of the GAECs already include exemptions that allow works to be carried out in emergency situations. For example, cutting or trimming trees where they are damaged and are a risk to people.
Farmers are also exempt from a GAEC rule under the following circumstances;
- issues of human or animal health or safety
- when they need to control or treat serious causes of harm to plant health
- serious pest or weed infestations
Farmers don’t need to write to RPA asking for an exemption. Also, derogations can be granted on a case by case basis and these will particularly apply under the GAEC soils rules where they cannot be met:
- where the environment would benefit
- for livestock or crop production
- improving public or agricultural access
Farmers must apply in writing for a derogation from RPA. They have to wait for written permission before carrying out any works.
Write to RPA at:
Rural Payments Agency
PO Box 352
Or email: email@example.com
If farmers are concerned about a breach of the cross compliance rules that’s out of their control, they should try to keep a record of it. Use photos and/or a written record of the issues. Farmers can show these to RPA if they are inspected at a later date, so we can see how they were affected.
Land eligibility and ‘Force Majeure’
Flooded land is still eligible for BPS if the flooding is temporary and the land would otherwise still be available for agricultural activity. RPA expect the land would be returned to agricultural use as soon as practically possible.
The impact of flooding could be regarded as permanent if the land can no longer be considered as ‘eligible’ for BPS and no longer meets the land eligibility criteria. For example, if a stretch of river bank had been washed away and the boundary of the field has subsequently moved, then the area washed away would be a permanent change. In these circumstances, farmers should write to RPA for force majeure within 15 working days of being in a position to do so.
Any farmers who have Cover Crops counting towards their EFA requirement that have been destroyed by the flooding should also request force majeure within 15 working days.
Farmers don’t need to notify RPA where field boundaries have been destroyed if the intention is to re-instate the boundary. If there has been a permanent change to the boundary, then this will need to be reported to the RPA using an RLE 1 form.
Farming Recovery Fund
Farmers whose businesses have been affected by flooding will be able to apply for support grants of up to £20,000 to help restore damaged agricultural land.
An application form and guidance is now available. Farmers experiencing difficulties getting online can call the Rural Payments helpline on 03000 200 301.