Potato growers: funding, levies and Cross Compliance

Requirements for the Single Payment Scheme and regional funding for potato farmers, and how to prevent and control diseases and pests.


This guide explains what Cross Compliance requirements you need to meet as a potato grower in order to receive a Single Payment Scheme entitlement, and how to prevent and control potato diseases and pests. It also gives details of guidance and advice you can obtain from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Potato Council and Rural Payments Agency.

The Single Payment Scheme for potato farmers

As a grower, you can apply for payments under the Common Agricultural Policy Single Payment Scheme (SPS). To claim payment you will need to hold SPS payment entitlements and have eligible land at your disposal.

In order to receive the full SPS payment you must comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and keep your land in good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC). These relate to 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 and ensuring a minimum level of maintenance, avoiding the deterioration of habitats. This is known as Cross Compliance.

All agricultural activities are covered by Cross Compliance and you must comply with the requirements across the whole agricultural area of your holding, regardless of the amount of land you entered into the SPS.

All the SMRs and the majority of the GAEC standards reflect legal requirements that farmers should already follow.

To apply for payments, you need to fill in an annual SP5 application form, either electronically or as a hard copy. The deadline for applications is usually in May for payments starting 1 December. Find information on the requirements and standards of cross compliance on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) website.

The rules on how you use your entitlements changed from the 2010 scheme year. From 2010, you must use an entitlement at least once in two years instead of the previous rule of once in three years. You will find more information about this in the guidance booklet you are sent with your SPS 2010 application form. 

The minimum claim size for the 2010 scheme year is set at 1 hectare and if you hold special entitlements, the minimum claim size will be £200.

For more information on how the SPS works, see the guide on SPS.

To check that you are fully compliant with the SMRs and GAECs that apply to your farm, you can use the Whole Farm Approach Cross Compliance Self Assessment tool on the Defra website (registration required).

For technical advice and queries on Cross Compliance, contact 0845 345 1302.

Read about the SPS on the RPA website.

Regional funding

The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) safeguards and enhances the rural environment by helping farmers and growers to run sustainable rural businesses, and improve the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sectors in England.

The RDPE is jointly funded by the EU - through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) - and the government. Funds from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes can also be transferred into the RDPE as part of a process called ‘voluntary modulation’.

The RDPE is structured around four EU objectives for rural development, called ‘axes’:

  • Axis 1 - improving the competitiveness of the farming and forestry sectors
  • Axis 2 - improving the environment and the countryside
  • Axis 3 - improving rural quality of life and diversification of the rural economy
  • Axis 4 - the Leader approach

Individual measures in each axis set out which farming activities are eligible for funding.

Who to contact

The following agencies offer grants in England under the RDPE:

  • Defra for economic and social funding in rural areas under Axes 1 and 3
  • Natural England - by offering funding through Environmental Stewardship schemes under Axes 1 and 2
  • the Forestry Commission - by offering forestry funding under Axis 2
  • Local Action Groups (LAGs) for the Leader approach under Axis 4

You can find your LAG on the RDPE Network website.

Find out about the RDPE on the Defra website.

You can also find more information on RDPE in the guide RDPE.

Read about grants and funding on the Natural England website.

Levies payable by potato farmers

In order to fund its activities in support of the UK potato industry, the Potato Council collects levies from potato growers and purchasers. If you grow over 2 hectares of potatoes you will have to pay the levy. The levy is payable at the standard rate if it reaches the Potato Council by the 1 December each year. A higher rate applies to late payments.

Find the latest information for potato growers on the Potato Council website.

How to make a planting return

You need to tell the Potato Council the size of the area planted with potatoes - this is known as the ‘planting return’.

You will then have to pay a levy, which for the year from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 remains unchanged at £39 per hectare.

If the Council does not receive a return, it will estimate your planted area and charge a levy based on this estimate. In such cases, the Council will charge the levy at the late payment rate of £44 per hectare.

Plant health controls for potatoes

The Potato Council and the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) run a number of schemes to prevent or eliminate diseases and pests that damage potatoes.

The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) undertake surveillance for quarantine potato pests and diseases like Colorado Beetle, brown rot and ring rot.

Farmers also have a role to play in preventing the spread of pests and disease. For example, you must mark ware potato packaging with a unique identification number to enable trace-back of potatoes in case any pest or disease problems arise.

Aphid control

Many aphid species transmit potato virus Y (PVY), which is the principal viral disease of potatoes.

The Potato Council and Fera run an aphid-monitoring scheme for Potato Council levy payers. This helps growers make informed decisions about when to use pesticides and when to burn down the crop.

Find out how the aphid-monitoring scheme works on the Fera website or sign up for aphid monitoring alerts on the Potato Council website.


Find information on identifying and controlling blight on the Potato Council website.

The Potato Council operates a Fight Against Blight service, based on blight incident reporting from 300 industry members who regularly walk potato fields during the season.

These reports complement weather-related data on infection risk, and allow growers to act preventatively by applying fungicides when blight is expected.

Brown rot

This is a quarantine disease of potato that is notifiable in the UK. It causes the plant to wilt but the most visible symptom is a brown stain in the vascular ring of the tuber. If you find symptoms of it in your crop, you must immediately contact your local PHSI, or the PHSI Headquarters in York. There have been seven outbreaks in England in ware potatoes between 1992 and 2005, all associated with contaminated water. It has been found in several EU member states, as well as further afield.

For detailed information on the signs, causes and legislation, download an illustrated information leaflet on brown rot of potato from the Fera website (PDF, 235KB).

Potato cyst nematodes

The two main pathotypes of PCN (Globodera pallida and G. rostochiensis) are serious pests that are the subject of a specific European Directive setting out requirements on the movement of potatoes and plants with roots, intended for planting, within the Community and imported from third countries.

You must inform your local PHSI if you are:

  • planning to grow seed potatoes
  • registered to issue plant passports for bulbs, nursery stock or other transplants
  • planning to export ware potatoes or any of the above products to a country outside the EU

[Download a full list of Fera PHSI offices in England and Wales from the Fera website (

As of 1 July 2010, a replacement PCN control directive - Council Directive 2007/33/EC - requires that seed potato growers ensure that the land in which they intend to grow seed potatoes meets certain criteria.

You can find more information on the page in this guide on plant health controls for seed potatoes and read detailed plant health guidance on the Fera website.

Fields which are found to be infested with PCN as a result of an official soil test will be demarcated by the PHSI and certain obligations and restrictions will apply in relation to the field. These include a prohibition on growing seed potatoes and a requirement to wash/brush or disinfest specified non-PCN host plants that are harvested from the field. Ware potatoes may be grown provided that a Control Programme is in place to suppress the levels of PCN in the field. Find guidance on dealing with PCN on the Fera website.

Ring rot

This is a quarantine disease of potatoes and is notifiable in the UK. Only three outbreaks in the UK have been recorded, in 2003 and 2004, all associated with seed potatoes introduced from outside the UK. It has been found in several other EU countries, as well as further afield. It rots potatoes from within and in the USA it has caused yield losses of 50 per cent.

In order to prevent ring rot, growers should:

  • plant only classified seed
  • regularly clean and disinfect all equipment and facilities used in potato production
  • dispose of potato waste according to Code of Practice PB3580

If you see any of the symptoms, you must immediately contact either your Plant Health and Seeds Inspector, or the PHSI Headquarters. Download contact details for all PHSI offices from the Fera website (PDF, 43K).

For detailed information on the signs, causes and legislation, download the guide to ring rot of potato from the Fera website (PDF, 265KB).

The Safe Haven Certification Scheme has been set up to help prevent outbreaks of ring rot. For more information, see the page in this guide on plant health controls for seed potatoes.

Plant health controls for seed potatoes

The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) is part of Fera - an Agency of Defra - and is responsible for the Seed Potato Classification Scheme (SPCS).

The Seed Potato Classification Scheme

All growers who want to market seed potatoes need to contact their local PHSI at the start of the growing season to have their seed potatoes classified. Download contact details for all PHSI offices from the Defra website (PDF, 43KB). Find information about the SPCS, including the relevant application forms on the Fera website. For SPCS purposes, marketing includes giving away seed potatoes, as well as selling them.

The SPCS certifies that all seed potatoes marketed in England and Wales meet legally defined standards, in terms of being substantially free from plant pests and diseases, meeting good standards of quality, and being true to variety and free from mixtures.

You can only apply for classification for your seed crop if the parent stock comes from classified seed of a variety included on the UK National List or the European Community Common Catalogue. Under certain conditions you are allowed to market seed potatoes for test and trials, or to bulk up stocks in readiness for entry into the SPCS, if the variety has been entered for but not yet accepted onto the National List. You should contact your local PHSI for more information. Download contact details for all PHSI offices from the Defra website (PDF, 43KB).

You must apply for classification of your seed potatoes in either pre-basic, basic or certified categories. Pre-basic and basic categories are mainly intended for production of seed potato crops, and certified as mainly for ware production.

As of 1 July 2010, a growing crop certificate can only be issued with a statement that seed potatoes are capable of being marketed as pre-basic, basic or certified seed potatoes, if the land in which they were grown or are being grown meets all the following criteria:

  • was found, upon official soil sampling for PCN before planting of the crop, to be free of the disease
  • is not demarcated under Schedule 15 to the Plant Health (England) Order 2005 as infested with a European population of PCN
  • has not been used for growing potatoes at any time during a prescribed period immediately before the planting of the crop. The prescribed periods are four years for certified seed potatoes, five years for any basic class, and seven years for all classes of pre-basic seed potatoes

Note that the soil test requirement does not apply to seed potatoes grown in a soil-free medium.

Control measures to detect and control PCN are revised, as well as powers of entry of inspectors to determine if plant pest is present on any premises, including those that are unoccupied ones.

For more information, see the guide on the marketing of agricultural and vegetable seed varieties.

You can apply using downloadable printed forms, or electronically via the eDomero website. Find out how to register to use eDomero.

The Safe Haven Certification Scheme

The Safe Haven Certification Scheme (SHCS) is a cross-potato industry supported scheme administered by Assured Produce and helps prevent outbreaks of ring rot, as well as reducing the threat from other bacterial diseases like Dickeya Dianthicola, and quarantine organisms that the UK is free from. Individual seed growing businesses can undertake an audit to enable them to meet the scheme’s robust standards. This helps protect those seed businesses and their customers against these organisms. You should ensure that you buy seed potatoes from an accredited Safe Haven grower.

Find a list of assured Safe Haven growers on the Assured Produce website.

If you are a seed grower and would like to join the scheme, speak to your current farm assurance auditor and arrange for an audit, either as a ‘stand alone’ or ‘bolt on’ to your existing farm assurance audit. You can find out about the SHCS on the Potato Council website.

If you wish to purchase Safe Haven assured seed potatoes, contact your seed supplier, or find accredited growers in the Safe Haven directory on the Assured Produce website.

Further information

Potato Council (Export and Seed)

0131 472 4149

Potato Council Enquiry Line

024 7669 2051

Fera Helpline

01904 462 000

Potato Council (SBEU - Sutton Bridge Experimental Unit)

01406 351 444

Defra Duty Room Helpline (Out of Hours)

020 7270 8960

Defra Plant Health Division

01904 455 174

Defra Helpline

08459 33 55 77

RPA Helpline

0845 603 7777

Cross Compliance Helpline

0845 345 1302

National NVZ Helpline

0845 345 1302

Cross Compliance requirements and standards information on the RPA website

National Farmers Union information on the NFU website

Cross Compliance regulations and publications on the RPA website

Cross Compliance and the latest updates on the Defra website

Rural Land Register information on the RPA website

RDPE guidance on the Defra website

Grants and funding information on the Natural England website

Potato growers information on the Potato Council website

Agriculture and horticulture efficiency and competitiveness improvements on the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board website

Aphid monitoring scheme guidance on the Fera website

Diagnosing potato pests and diseases information on the Fera website

Fight Against Blight information on the Potato Council website

Blight incident alerts account registration on the Potato Council website

Potato crop healthcare latest developments on the Fera website

Powdery scab quick reference guide on the Potato Council website

PCN controlling through plant trap cropping using S. sisymbriifolium on the Farmers Weekly Interactive website

Download a full list of PHSI offices in England and Wales from the Fera website (PDF, 25KB)

Seed Potato Classification Scheme guidance on the Defra website

Download the SPCS/Approved Stock Scheme Crop application form from the Defra website (PDF, 59KB)

Download the SPCS/Approved Stock Scheme application form for official labels, seals etc from the Defra website (PDF, 47KB)

Download the application form for SPCS/Approved Stock Scheme Voluntary Tuber Indexing for Virus from the Defra website (PDF, 46KB)

SHCS information on the Potato Council website

Assured Safe Haven growers list on the Assured Produce website

Download detailed information on the scheme and how to apply for Safe Haven certification from the Potato Council website (PDF, 276KB)

Published 12 September 2012
Last updated 13 June 2013 + show all updates
  1. Fixing references to specialist guides
  2. First published.