Report On November Meeting

November’s speaker was Rita Jones. Rita is the Welsh Government’s Farm Liaison Officer, and she came to tell us about the kind of ‘official’ issues that smallholders have to deal with. Rita covered a number of payment schemes updating us on what is changing, how it might change and when we should expect any alterations to the system. There were also many tips and suggestions to assist all smallholders and farmers at inspection time.

There was good news for the Single Payment scheme, processing rates in 2013 are 89%. Don’t forget, the sooner you apply, the sooner your claim will be processed. In 2014 the Trading scheme will remain unchanged, however they are expecting that the 2015 Trading entitlement will be completely different.

Rita talked in some details about Cross Compliance, reminding us that any failure to comply will result in penalties. Cross Compliance applies to all current schemes – so we need to make sure we all understand the requirements. On the subject of Farm Inspections, it was surprising to hear that failure rates were so high for cattle inspection. Common failure points were not recording movements, death, and missing tags.

Tips to ensure you pass included;
– Obtaining regular printouts of animals on holding (the office are happy to print these for
you)
– Maintain up to date records
– Check passport details, add barcode, and sign to comply with tagging requirements
– Check missing tags

Whilst failure rates for sheep and goats were much lower, they were usually linked to:
– No stock – take figures
– Not recording births/id/deaths/replacement tags
– Not keeping records up to date,
– Incomplete flock book/ inventory.

Tips for passing your inspection included;
– Have a supply of tags
– Use the correct tag and tag within time limits
– Make sure your records are up to date
– Make sure copies of movement licences are available
– Provide supporting evidence available for any deaths
– Number of sheep on holding (belonging to business)

In 2014 there will be additional information required in the inventory. You do not need to use the Welsh Government flock book, but make sure all the information is available. In future when you submit your inventory you will be given a receipt. Keep this! All the information for the inventory is on the licences so keep copies; this information is important for your inspection, but insufficient on its own, so make sure your inventory is up to date. So far the inspections have taken a ‘softly -softly’ approach to electronic tagging, but this will change as increased use of electronic tags are seen in flocks. England is currently having a consultation on the possibility of a national Sheep Database. The outcome of this is likely to have an influence on the Welsh Government’s thinking about a sheep database here.

Pesticide use record-keeping is causing problems for a lot of farmers at the moment. Rita informed us that even small areas sprayed with a knapsack sprayer need to be included in your records, and come 2014/15, ALL users of pesticides and herbicides will need to have received training (Like Lantra’s course) in application. The caveat here is Grandfather rights; If you were born before 1964 you should be OK, but watch this space…

Rita said that record keeping and information would inevitably be moving towards more hi-tech solutions, such as the phone and the internet. As some of you will know, all pig records are now on-line; there is no paper format available, and it is likely that this template will be used for ALL required records. She was hopeful that using up-to-date technology may make compliance easier. Glastir will be reviewed in 2014. Currently there are three levels; Entry, Advance and Efficiency.

To be in Glastir you must have a minimum of three hectares, have full management of all eligible land for five years (this can include tenancy) and meet the points threshold for the business/farm. Points are gained for; landscape features, habitats, arable, crop management for arable, and historical features. You need to be in Entry level in order to be considered for Advanced level. Being selected for this scheme can depend on Welsh Government priorities at that time, but may include soil carbon management, water quality, water quality management, biodiversity, historic environments, and improving access. Efficiency grants are open to all on Glastir Entry Level, for heat generation, energy efficiency, water efficiency and manure/slurry efficiency. The 2015 packs are currently being put together, so if you’re interested, register with the Divisional Office. Under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) changes were due to be implemented on 01.01.14 but this has been delayed, so no changes for 2014. It is looking like there will be a new system in 2015 with the basic payment making up 70% and Greening payment 30%. You will no longer need to be in Glastir to qualify for this. Rita thought most Welsh farmers will qualify for this under the category of 75% permanent pasture, or if using an organic system. The document is currently under consultation (looking at topics such as transition time, definition of an Active farmer, rates, and trading of entitlements), and this is due to end on 30.11.13. The draft document is available on their website so make sure you get your comments in.

Further moves to online services are coming from Rural Payments Wales (RPW). Everybody needs to be online by 2016, but the system will be available from 2014. Everyone in receipt of Single Payments is being encouraged to get an Activation Code so they can take advantage of RPW online. In 2014 a hard copy will be made available, but if you submit online you will no longer be offered the paper copy. Feedback from farmers is that it’s simple to use. Advantages include being able to liaise with the Divisional office online for validation, and reducing the likelihood of incomplete forms being submitted.

Whilst the Gwlad magazine is now only published bimonthly, have a look at Gwladonline.org. This has all the information from the print version, and much, much more. It’s a helpful, easy-to-read way to stay up to date for all smallholders.

Rita ending by telling us that help is available – don’t be afraid to talk to the team or drop into the office, whether you want advice, or think you might have a problem – seek help sooner rather than later. The team are there to share concerns, to help and to guide. The number for the Carmarthen team is 01267 225300.

 

By Amanda Bayley