A rule excluding landowners and farmers from claiming payments through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) if they also operate a non-agricultural business on their land has been all but scrapped.
The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses lobbied for 18 months to scale down the ‘Active Farmer’ test in England as it wouldhave prevented thousands of genuine farming businesses from claiming the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). A change to the rule now means businesses will be considered an Active Farmer if they have more than 36 hectares of eligible land.
CLA President Henry Robinson 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.”
He added: “We said before the CAP negotiations began that it would be an extremely cumbersome and complex policy to administer. Although some organisations would like to stop some farms and businesses from claiming BPS, it was clear the test in its original form would have been an unjustifiable drain on resources for Defra and claimants alike. For the number of people it initially sought to exclude, the policy did not represent good value for money.”
The Active Farmer test still applies to some farms under 36 hectares who have certain business activities, but the CLA is working to ensure the policy is thrown out in the next round of CAP reform negotiations.