Richard Lochhead has warned landowners seeking to claim under the Basic Payment Scheme that they will be closely scrutinised and likely to be the focus of targeted inspections.
This week has seen ongoing criticism of landowners with regard to potentially claiming under the Basic Payment Scheme and the consequences for the seasonal lets market.
Following a letter from several stakeholder organisations to Mr Lochhead raising the seasonal grazings issue, the Cabinet Secretary issued a press release saying, “My understanding is that land is still available to rent, but in some cases the CAP payments are now being claimed by the landowner rather than the tenant. I can certainly understand why so many tenant farmers are concerned by this situation, which has been brought about by EU rules, and I look forward to exploring this issue in more detail when I meet industry. Would-be slipper farmers have no place in the new CAP. If anyone thinks that land owners with no track record of farming can take land back in hand and get payments then they are mistaken. And they are severely mistaken if they think payments will be made on entitlements where there is no farming activity”.
The whole press release can be found here...
Scottish Land & Estates issued a press release highlighting that the organisation had itself been seeking a solution and encouraging all parties to work together click here...
After the meeting between the other industry bodies and Mr Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary issued a further press release, reproduced in full here:
Rural Affairs Secretary says days of getting money for nothing are over.
Commenting following a meeting with industry to discuss seasonal lets, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“This was a constructive meeting where we talked through some of the potential impacts on seasonal lets of the EU rule change on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, which must now be based on land area.
“I was very concerned to hear of circumstances where some people have been trying to find loopholes in the legislation. But let me be clear – under the new CAP, the days of getting money for nothing are over.
“Landowners leaning towards taking land back in hand to claim CAP payments themselves should think carefully about the responsibilities, obligations and potential consequences of doing so.
“Scotland’s minimum activity rules are among the toughest in Europe and the requirements for making a valid claim are clearly set out in our guidance. For example, environmental audits must be carried out to the specified high standard using approved methodology – there is no easy or cheap way round this or quick fixes.
“People may not be aware of what is at stake – under EU rules, the penalties for deliberately over-claiming or circumventing regulations are severe.
“Landowners who were not claiming under the old regime need to be aware that unless they can prove they were actively farming in 2013, they will not be eligible for automatic entitlements under the new CAP. And everyone claiming basic payments will need to provide verifiable and robust evidence of appropriate farming activity, that will be carefully scrutinised by my officials.
“In addition, within the flexibility the EU allows us, we can target inspections to ensure the new rules are complied with and I am asking my officials to do this.
“There will be no hiding from the inspection regime, which this year we expect to start before the end of the SAF window. And, of course, if there is any sign of legislation being breached – even if it is not directly related to CAP – then our inspectors are obliged to act.
“The clock is ticking and so now is the time for landowners and graziers – if they have not already done so – to sit down and agree a workable solution in line with the new CAP regulations.”