The Farmers’ Union of Wales today gave a cautious welcome to a number of decisions made by Welsh Government regarding Pillar 1 CAP payments but warned that the devil may be in the detail.
Speaking after natural resources and food minister Alun Davies’ announcement, FUW president Emyr Jones said: “The inclusion of fallow land, hedges, stone wall, afforested land and land used for nitrogen fixing crops within Greening Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) is welcome.
“Like the Welsh Government, we were opposed to the introduction of greening which adds a new layer of restrictions and bureaucracy to the CAP regulations. However, despite this objection the minister’s decision to allow the range of areas to be eligible for EFAs must be welcomed.
“But it must be borne in mind that this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it will make it easier to comply with greening requirements and reduce the amount of land taken out of production but, on the other, it will create extra work for farmers who will need to map hedges, walls etc. before the end of October this year.”
Mr Jones emphasised the need to increase the range of areas and features which qualify for EFAs, both at an EU and Wales level.
He also welcomed the minister’s decision to revoke an earlier refusal to allow appeals against the incorrect categorisation of land as “moorland”, following pressure from the FUW.
“The criteria upon which appeals are judged must be fair and objective. No one can argue that it would be morally acceptable to have a system which sets in stone errors made during the original 1992 moorland mapping process - a process which few were aware of until recently,” added Mr Jones.
Highlighting the need for approaches which minimise the administrative burden for government and farmers alike, he said: “While the Welsh Government appears to have accepted many of our arguments regarding the active farmer criteria, there may still be those who are not automatically recognised as active farmers. For example, because they have a pheasant release pen or a village football pitch on their land.
“It is essential that some way is found to allow such people to confirm that they are nevertheless active farmers, rather than requiring them to submit annual accounts which merely confirm what is obvious but buries officials in paperwork.
“The EC’s failure to provide guidelines giving sensible and workable solutions to such problems is yet another black mark against an institution which has promised to simplify the CAP.
“This, coupled with the greening requirements, means we will have a CAP under which the bureaucratic burden will be much worse than at present.
“It is, therefore, essential that the Welsh Government stands by its commitment to reduce avoidable bureaucracy and does not add significantly to the burden as is currently proposed in its consultation on Cross Compliance,” added Mr Jones.