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FARMER: It’s time to get written agreements put in place
12:40pm Monday 28th May 2012 in Farmer
THE spectre of a clampdown on dual use under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) has been hanging over English farmers over the past year, writes ROD LLOYD-JONES partner at Clarke Willmott LLP.
The initial Welsh decision last year that the EU legislation did not allow dual use and the RPA’s announcement that it was looking into dual use cases did not bode well.
However, 2012 has brought a slight relaxation by the Welsh and the publishing of new detailed guidance by the RPA on the circumstances, in which dual use is acceptable in England.
The key to determining whether simultaneous claims can be made under the SPS and an agri-environment scheme by two different applicants in respect of the same land (ie dual use) is the division of rights and responsibilities between the parties.
The requirements under the various schemes differ: claimants under the SPS must have the “land at their disposal”, thus owneroccupiers and tenants would qualify, but true graziers would not.
By contrast applicants under, for example, an RDPE agrienvironment scheme, must demonstrate “management control” over the land, to enable them to meet their scheme obligations.
A landlord of tenanted land could show this, if he had reserved relevant rights in the tenancy agreement and was also able to require the tenant to meet any relevant scheme obligations.
Whatever the circumstances, there are crucial steps which farmers must take if they wish to make use of the dual use flexibility without risking their payments.
First, a careful appraisal of the division of rights and responsibilities between the parties under the separate schemes should be made. This division should support the differing requirements of the schemes.
Secondly and vitally, written evidence of the arrangements should be put in place, reflecting the careful division of obligations. Necessary rights should be reserved to the landowner and tenants should agree to meet relevant scheme conditions.
Attached as many farmers are to the gentleman’s handshake, it may prove to be difficult to persuade the RPA of the existence of obligations under agreements concluded in that way.
It’s time to bite the bullet and get written agreements put in place!