More farmers to get paid under new rule

Henry Robinson, president of the Country Land and Business Association.
Henry Robinson, president of the Country Land and Business Association.
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A rule excluding landowners and farmers from claiming European subsidy payments if they also operate a non-agricultural business on their land has been all but scrapped.

Farmers in England with at least 36 hectares of eligible land will qualify as an “active farmer” under the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) of the EU’s revised Common Agricultural Policy, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has announced.

The ruling comes after 18 months of lobbying by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses.

Henry Robinson, the CLA’s president, said: “This decision will bring a sigh of relief to thousands of businesses that faced losing out on vital support payments. We fought hard against active farmer rules that would have discriminated against farmers who have successfully diversified their business, as well as larger estates and institutional landowners. If land is managed properly, meets the scheme rules and is kept in good agricultural and environmental condition then it should not matter who the claimant is.”

The revision is one of a number of new details released by Defra on how the BPS will work. It also said that hosting activities on farms such as bird watching and school visits will not affect payments, nor will clay shooting, country fairs and car boot sales on farmland if they last no more than 28 days in a calendar year.