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Farmers Must Act to Ensure Payments are Protected

Recipients must check SFP and LFASS Claim Forms Now

NFU Scotland is urging all 24,000 farm businesses in Scotland that receive a Single Farm Payment (SFP) and/or Less Favoured Area support (LFASS), to check their single application (SAF) claim forms now to reassure themselves that all the land involved in their 2010 claim is deemed eligible.

The Scottish Government has informed the Union that a European audit of the penalty system in Scotland requires them to fully enforce existing scheme rules on land eligibility.   These state that any claim made on ineligible land is an intentional breach and places all of the funding a businesses receives through SFP and LFASS receipts at risk, not just for the 2010 scheme year but for previous years as well.   The Scottish Government is writing to all scheme recipients informing them of the situation.

In a postcard to all its members, the Union has pointed out some simple steps that farmers can take to verify the validity of their claim.   It is urging them all to read the Scottish Government correspondence then take the time to look at their own farm maps and check that the land claimed in the relevant columns of the claim form – specifically column I - is correct.   If a farmer believes he has claimed on ineligible land, he can rectify the situation by contacting his local Scottish Government office in writing, by fax or by Email with details on individual fields affected and the areas that require to be deducted.

By proactively taking steps to correct the claimed area, the breach is no longer viewed as intentional and removes the risk of losing SFP or LFASS payments in their entirety.  If, however, a farm receives an official inspection and ineligible areas are found as part of a claim, then the whole payment may be withheld.

NFU Scotland President Jim McLaren said:

“While virtually every farm business in Scotland will be alarmed at this news, the reality is that by taking a few simple steps farmers and crofters can reassure themselves on the validity of their SFP and LFASS claims.  Support payments underpin the majority of farming businesses, and I urge all farmers to respond to the information being sent to them.

“Read the Scottish Government correspondence and then take the time to check the field areas on your farm maps and SAF claim form.  If you discover that your claim has included ineligible ‘hard’ features such as roads, houses, new buildings, ponds or watercourses as part of a field area or that you have included areas of permanent, impenetrable vegetation like gorse or bracken in the claim then you need to act.

“Contact your Area Office in writing, by email or by fax with details of the fields involved and the area you wish to remove from the claim or make an appointment with the office to update the field boundaries of the business and check the eligible areas. It is crucial that you make an attempt to correct the data is vital. If ineligible area is found at a routine inspection, but you have made an effort proactively to correct the situation with your area office, it will not be viewed as intentional over-declaration.

“If, at inspection, ineligible land is being claimed and no attempt has been made by the farmer to adjust the claimed area then this will be deemed an intentional over declaration and the farmer’s entire SFP and/or LFASS claim is at risk.   That is a high price to pay and one that few businesses could stand.

“For a few moments in the farm office reading the Scottish Government letter and checking maps and claim forms the vast majority of farmers will reassure themselves that their claim forms are in order.   Where there is a problem, the farmer can move from being in the situation of an intentional over declaration with its severe consequences by writing to the local office and deducting the ineligible features from the eligible area being claimed.   It is not too late to do this now from the 2010 claim form as long as it is done before an inspection is announced.”

Notes for editors

  • Farm businesses that submitted a Single Application Form (SAF) form by 17 May 2010 but did not make deductions for clearly ineligible ‘hard’ features such as roads, houses, new buildings, ponds, watercourses etc then the error will automatically be deemed as intentional. In addition, claiming for permanent, impenetrable vegetation like gorse or bracken could also be deemed an intentional error. This is a new enforcement approach – driven by Europe - and could mean a business may lose its SFP and/or LFASS in its entirety.    The penalties could also be applied retrospectively for years 2007, 2008 and 2009.
  • NFUS is urging its members read the “Dear Producer” letter from SGRPID that will be sent to them on this subject.  They should look at their farm maps and identify if there any ineligible areas then look at the claimed area on their SAF form - column I to ensure they have deducted the ineligible area from the claim.
  • If not, members are being urged to contact their Area Office in writing or by email/fax with details of the land parcel to be changed, its field identifier and the area to be adjusted.
  • If a claimant fails to do this and is subsequently selected for inspection and the inspector finds ineligible areas above one hectare or 0.5 percent of the total claimed land, the entire SFP and/or LFASS payment could be lost.
  • If this ineligible area is found at inspection, but a claimant has made an effort proactively to correct the situation with the local area office, it will not be viewed as intentional over-declaration.
  • Around five percent of all Scottish farms receive an official inspection each year.   Inspections related to the 2010 SAF are already underway.

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth – 0131 472 4006, Sarah Anderson – 0131 472 4108, Wendy Fleming – 0131 472 4020

 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 128/10


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