Countryside Matters 2014 - page 24-25

Countryside
Matters
22
Countryside
Matters
23
COMMON AGRICULTURE POLICY
COMMON AGRICULTURE POLICY
How important isthe
SinglePaymentScheme
(SPS)when itcomesto
balancingthebooks?
BasicallytheSPS iswhat
enablesustomakeaprofit; ifwe
didn’thavetheSPSwewouldn’t
breakeven.Likemostfarming
enterprises intheUK,weregard
theSPSasvitaltoouroperations
as itfundsthebasicannualcapital
investment.
ClearlytheSPS isvital.How
complex istheapplicationprocess?
Theactual formfillinghasbecome
easierovertime. Itusedtobeareal
nightmarewith lotsofpitfalls.Now
youcanapplyonlineandallthe
information isthere. Thesedays,all
youneedtodo ischeck lastyear’s
informationandmakechanges
wherenecessary.Storeddata
onthingssuchasfieldsizesand
locations isalready inthesystem
whichpreventsafarmermissinga
field.Accuracy isvitally important
becausethechecksonthefarms
arebecomingmorestringent.The
plusside isthatthe informationheld
onourfarmsbytheGovernment
isgenerallyup-to-dateandcorrect
whereas inthepast, itwasn’talways
thecase.Sometimeswewould
gettheformsbackandthefirst
thingwewouldhavetodo ischeck
the informationwascorrect.You
wouldendupwithyourneighbour’s
fieldsonyourformortheremight
be ‘missingfields’whichhadbeen
allocatedtosomeoneelse’sholding.
Now it ismuchbetterwith improved
accuracyandtheeaseofcompleting
theprocessonlinemakes itsimpler
tosortoutdiscrepanciesorqueries.
Whatareyourthoughtsonthe
futurechangestotheCAP?
It isdefinitelychangingwithan
emphasisontheenvironment,
whichforus(being100%organic)
isgoodnews.Thenewsystem
willbeslightlyslanted infavourof
operations likeourscomparedtothe
conventional farm. Infuture itwill
be lessonerousforustomakethe
gradeandqualifyforfundingthan
thenon-organicfarm.
Whatdoyouthinkthe implications
wouldbe iftheUK lefttheEU?
Ifwe leftEurope,wewouldhave
tocompeteontheworldmarket
withourproducts.Thatcouldsee
moreBritishfarmersturningto
areaswhereprofit isgreatersuch
asmilkproduction(which iswhat
happened inNewZealand). Itwould
alsobe likelytosuckmoneyaway
fromenvironmentalschemes. I
thinkwe’dbebacktoasituation
wherefarmersneededtowork
every last inchoftheir land. Itwould
probablyalsomeanthatsome
smallerfarmerswouldbeforcedto
leavethe industryresulting inan
increase inbiggerconcerns. Ina
globalmarket, economiesofscale in
farmingoperationsandahigh level
ofbusinessacumenwouldbeneeded
forafarmtothrive.
Georgemanages in-handfarming
enterprisesfortheEstates.He is
responsiblefor3,000acresof land
inEastDevon;allof itmanaged
organically.Therearetwoherds
of250cows,butthisyearthat
number is increasingto750.Each
cowproducesaround7,000 litresof
organicmilkayearwhich issoldto
DairyCrest. Thereare400North
CountryMulesheepraisedtoproduce
organic lamb.Thefarmsalsoproduce
somecereals.
to retainour current level of farm subsidy. However, in termsof agricultureas
a whole, experience elsewhere in the world where payments have been cut
has shown that agriculture itself canadjust quitewell andevenbecomemore
competitive,ashappenedmanyyearsago inNewZealand.
Most of the CAP reforms were decided at the end of June and nowwe are
beginning to see the regulations emerge but some key issues related to the
budget have only been formally decided in late September in negotiations
betweentheEuropeanParliamentandtheCouncilofMinisters.
Oneofthecritical issues istheextenttowhich largerscalefarmersshould losea
proportionoftheirpayment.Memberstateshavebeengivenacoupleofoptions
onwhichDefraconsulted in theAutumn. It seems likely that farmers receiving
over 150,000 euros per year (around£126,000) will have their payments cut
back.Thiscutwillprobablybesetat5percent, thesefundstobetransferredto
theruraldevelopmentbudget, includingforagri-environmentschemes.
Clearly thebig farmingoperators could face losingout but I believe thatmost
of themwouldbewell able toadjust to the level of cutweareexpecting.Also,
I think that quitea lot of the large scale farmers (suchClintonDevonEstates)
will beequallyconcernedabout the futureof agri-environment paymentsdue
to thetimeandmoneyspentonenvironmentalmanagementof their land– for
example, theworkClintonDevonEstatesdoeswith thePebblebedHealths. So
theRuralDevelopmentPayments forenvironmental schemescouldbeat least
as important as themain farmpayment asmoney is diverted fromPillar 1 to
Pillar 2. Theend result of thechanges shouldnot beadisadvantage to larger
farmbusinesseswhoaremanagingtheenvironmentwell.
Whatever theoutcomeof thefinal negotiations, thechangesare fast looming
onthehorizon.Thefirstofthenewruleswillbe introduced in2014withthenew
schemeofpaymentsscheduledfor introductiononthe 1stofJanuary2015.
Theview from the farm
ESTATE
ANGLE
GeorgePerrott
FarmManagerforClintonDevon
EstatesFarmPartnership
CAPpaymentshelp farmers
manage ‘environmentalassets’
suchascuttinghedgerows
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