Farmers’ mistakes cost £1.4m in lost payments

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Farmers lost out on £1.4m in Single Farm Payments due to poor record keeping last year, new statistics have shown.

Poor record-keeping was the major factor in cross compliance breaches which cost farmers in reductions to their Single Payment Scheme (SPS) payments.

The Rural Payments Agency has released figures for the number of breaches in 2012 to make farmers aware of the common errors so that they can avoid penalties in the future.

The figures show that there was a slight reduction in the total number of failures from 2,046 in 2011 to 1,947 last year.

The highest number of breaches (670) was among cattle keepers for failing to report the deaths or movement of their animals.

Problems were also shown with movements not being recorded in farm records.

The number of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) failings almost trebled from 72 in 2011 to 205 in 2012, with incomplete records being the main breach.

Additionally, the number of failings for not having a Soil Protection Review nearly doubled from 88 to 169.

Other areas where breaches have increased include sheep and goat reporting errors, up a 100 on last year; obstructions on public rights of way; and inappropriate cultivation and pesticide use in field boundary protection zones.

There were also 85 failures for the new GAEC 19, covering No Spread Zones, where farmers spread organic manure without a risk map.

RPA operation director Paul Caldwell said: “Hopefully, by releasing these figures we can help farmers avoid potentially costly penalties and reduce the overall number of breaches.

“Across all agricultural sectors, but particularly for cattle and sheep farmers, failure to keep adequate records was a major cause of breaches. I would urge farmers to take a look at the list of common errors, and make sure they are aware of the cross compliance rules relevant to them, so that they avoid making similar mistakes in the future.”

The news comes as the RPA seeks to distance itself from its past poor performance in which it was heavily criticised for making late and incorrect payments to farmers.

A select committee called the RPA “a masterclass in maladministration” and a new management team was brought in to turn things around.