Even as we entered this year’s Single Payment Claims online, we received a call from a client saying, ‘I have an inspection tomorrow’.
Inspections are ongoing and will continue to be even as we enter the new regime in 2015. While we do not have statistics for the 2013 period inspections yet we do know that Cross compliance failures cost farmers £1.4million in single payment penalties in 2012, and slight changes in legislation mean producers must remain vigilant this year.
Although lower than the £2.6million figure recorded in 2011, RPA inspections appear to be getting stricter, says Mark Wheeler agri-business consultant at Brown & Co.
He said: “The 2012 figures show that 35 per cent of failures had penalty reductions applied of 5 per cent or more of the business’s single farm payment. That compares with 27 per cent of failures in 2011.”
The most common reason for deductions is failure to comply with livestock identification and registration rules – but that doesn’t mean arable producers can rest on their laurels, says Mr Wheeler.
“Livestock failures made up more than 50 per cent of total cross-compliance breaches in 2012 – and I would suggest that a number of those were arable producers who also keep sheep and cattle,” he said.
Often, when livestock make up a smaller part of the overall business, it is easy to lose focus and fall foul of the legislation, he says. “Producers should always replace lost ear tags as soon as possible, keep good veterinary records, and submit movement information and passports within the required timescale.”
While the proportion of livestock failures is down on the year (from 70 per cent in 2011) there was little improvement in arable compliance, which now accounts for a proportionally larger share of failures.
Of these, one of the most common is not filling in the soil protection review (SPR), which accounted for 8.7 per cent of all failures, double 2011 levels, and 80 per cent of those farmers lost 5 per cent or more of their single payment as a result.
On average, a 100ha farm received just over £21,000 in single payments last year – so a 5 per cent cut would equate to more than £1,050.
“Penalties do accumulate, so if there are other failures then the cuts could be more severe,” says Mr Wheeler. “And recurrent breaches mean the penalty is tripled the following year, so you could very soon lose a lot of money.”
Penalties depend on the seriousness of the breach.
To offer farmers peace of mind, Brown & Co is continuing to offer a Farm Compliance Health Check, where consultants visit the farm and examine the main areas that would be considered by an inspector.
“We can also do a more thorough audit if there are a number of breaches,” says Mr Wheeler. “If the farm is in an environmental scheme we can include that in our checks, as failure to comply with the scheme can result in similar payment penalties.”