Sunday, 12 June 2011

Flaming June Where Are You?, What is a Farmer?

Just to prove it really is June and that that the roses are out and dogs lie around in the sunshine, or a least did two days ago! Today one would think it is the middle of winter...cold and so wet! I shall be lighting the fire later!
No hope of getting on with the silage today, though the forecast is not so bad for tomorrow & Tuesday. The Farmer & Sons are keeping their fingers crossed that things will improve after today...surely Summer will return soon. One good thing about the rain is that it will help bulk up the grass which always a good thing...clouds & silver linings comes to mind!

In the last issue of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) magazine Land, there was interesting article on how the European Commission is defining Farming.
Apparently the definition of an 'active farmer' is being tightened up for those who claim the Single Farm Payment (SFP).
 When the SFP was first introduced in 2004 the definition was a person or group who 'excercises an agricultural activity' and agricultural activity was defined as 'the production, rearing or growing of agricultural products including harvesting, milking, breeding animals and keeping animals for farming purposes, or maintaining the land in good agricultural & environmental condition'.
The Commission is concerned that payments are being made to people who are not genuine farmers and so is trying to find a way of whittling out those claimants. This means non-farming beneficiaries such as companies, investors, authorities & nature conservation organisations.
The most intereresting point in the article is that the 2004 CAP reforms decoupled support payments from agricultural production and introduced the Rural Development Regulation. This meant that there was active recognition of farming being a multi-functional activity which encouraged farmers to diversify into more varied land-based activities. Much of this diversification was encouraged to incorporate the voluntary agri-environmental schemes. It now looks as though the new proposal is going to make it compulsory for all European farmers through the Mandatory Greening notion of direct payments, to deliver basic environmental public goods, but as the CLA article says, there are many business forms in UK agriculture involved in land management activities, not just 'active farmers'. The issue is going to become very complicated but the main concern should be that payments are made and that all payments are appropriate and that all conditions of payment are met rather than worrying about who does what on the land.
As 'active farmers' we should have no worries about this legislation but may it just become another layer of paperwork that we have to wade through, to prove that we are actively farming &  and managing the land effectively.

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