Ignore cross compliance at your peril

The Rural Payments Agency will not be letting up on its inspection regime despite Defra’s heavy funding cuts.

Recent pressures on farm returns and the absence of a timely subsidy payment have reiterated the significance of farm support to all farm businesses. Understanding the rules and then getting their application right are vital if you want to avoid payment delays or penalties.

“You ignore the cross compliance rules at your peril,” said Mark Morison, partner at the Shrewsbury office of Berrys. In 2014 the top breach of cross compliance was SMR11 TB – Food and Feed Law (now coded under SMR 4). Since January 2014, failure to start a TB test within the testing window automatically breaches cross compliance. This accounted for a quarter of the total breaches in 2014,” he said.

The most common cross compliance breaches and how to avoid them:
SMR 4 – Food and feed law
Main failures:
• Failure to comply with TB testing intervals (25.98 per cent of total breaches in 2014)
• Feed not well stored
• Vermin
Tips to avoid penalties
• Ensure all eligible animals conform to national herd health surveillance and testing intervals for TB
• Keep food separate, weatherproofed and control vermin
• Poisons and pollutants must be kept clear of animal feed
• Do not allow farm dogs or birds to foul bulk feed stores
SMR 7 – Cattle Identification and registration (20.41 per cent of total breaches in 2014)
Main failures:
• Moving cattle without passports
• Not notifying the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) that an animal has been moved to another holding
• Missing ear tags
Tips to avoid penalties:
• Do the paperwork straight away
• Watch out for missing ear tags and replace them immediately
SMR 8 – Sheep and goat identification
Main failures:
• No record of movements between different Holding Numbers
Tips to avoid penalties:
• No records are required if the movement is within the same holding number
• Record movements to temporary holding numbers
• Record all holding numbers on the ARAMS forms and keep all forms on movement records for three years
SMR 13 – Animal welfare
Main failures:
• Lack of accurate records of diseases, medicinal treatments and deaths
• Short staffing impacting on proper care and wellbeing of livestock
• Buildings and equipment inadequate
Tips to avoid penalties:
• Consider whether facilities are adequate enough to do the job
• Ensure they are safe, gates or feed barriers are not presenting sharp edges for example. Keep good, accurate records of diseases and treatments for at least three years
• Ensure an adequate feeding regime and staff training
SMR 1 – Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
Main failures
• Missing or insufficient NVZ records
• Temporary heaps of muck left in the same place for more than 12 months
Tips to avoid penalties:
• The farm N-loading calculation is done on the basis of a calendar year. Calculate the farm loading by April 30 for the previous year. Follow the formula the NVZ regulations prescribe: animal numbers and types, imports and exports of manures, and land available. Record the dates and rates of any applications, making sure there are no missing fields
• Make sure you have a manure-spreading map that shows no-spread margins around all watercourses. This applies whether you farm in or outside an NVZ (GAEC 1). Show three locations for rotational field heaps.
GAEC 5 – Soil erosion
Main failures:
• Not demonstrating that you are taking steps to prevent soil erosion
Tips to avoid penalties
• Demonstrate steps taken to avoid erosion, especially into watercourses by identifying vulnerable fields and then taking steps to minimise the risks. A good starting point is a risk map
• Use buffer strips and cultivation techniques for example to reduce risks
GAEC 7a – Hedges
Main failures:
• Destroying the two-metre protection zone (from the centre of the hedge or ditch) and the one-metre protection zone from the top of the bank next to a watercourse
• Cutting hedges on the wrong date, as nesting birds must be protected
Tips to avoid penalties:
• Ensure the protection zone is not destroyed – no spraying, no cultivating and no machinery or dredgings can be put on it. Make contractors working for you are aware they must comply
Plan ahead and ensure you cut hedges when you are allowed to
GAEC 1 – No Spread Zones
Main failures
• Spreading manures too close to a ditch
• No map to show where to spread and where not to
Tips to avoid penalties:
• The general rule is that farmers must not apply manufactured nitrogen within two metres of surface water and organic manure within 10 metres of surface water
• Get an accurate map and mark the areas to be avoided to prevent spreading too close to the ditch. This applies to land inside and outside NVZs
SMR 10 – Plant protection products
Main failures:
• No accurate and up-to-date spraying records
Tips to avoid penalties:
• Keep field records, including details of the weather and spraying conditions, the operator’s number and signature
• Record the MAPP number of products
GAEC 7b – Public Rights of Way (RoW)
Main failures:
• Failure to spray off crops along a footpath
• Livestock in fields with a right of way presenting a danger
Tips to avoid penalties:
• Regularly walk the rights of way across your land to check for obstructions and dangers
• Make good the surface of cross-field footpaths and bridleways to not less than the minimum width within 14 days of the first disturbance if you are sowing a crop, or within 24 hours in all other circumstances
• Care must be taken in the selection of livestock to go in fields with footpaths – cows with calves can be aggressive
Mark Morison can be contacted at the Shrewsbury office of Berrys on: 01743 290647 or email mark.morison@berrybros.com

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