The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) has confirmed to AgriLand that land-owners registering their entitlements for SFP this spring will be locked into a baseline that will determine their draw down for 2015.

“If they are not eligible to register their SFP in the new CAP, as not deemed an active farmer, it seems their asset becomes invaluable,” an ACA spokesperson said.

“It is impossible to give advice at present because the national interpretation of those who have leased entitlements is not yet agreed, as I understand it.

“We have, and will continue to meet, the Department of Agriculture on a regular basis to clarify matters. However our members advise all landowner:  the more active and less active.”

Commenting on the same subject ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch said:

“On the issue of active farmer, the EU legislation does not make any real attempt to define it other than providing a “negative” list of entities which do not qualify for EU CAP support such as golf courses, airports etc.  There was a lot of debate about a more precise definition of an active farmer but nothing was agreed at EU level.

“Member states do have the option of adding other entities to the negative list but there doesn’t seem to be scope to create minimum terms for to define an active farmer such as minimum productivity.  ICSA has always argued that some level of minimum productivity should have been a pre-requisite for payment.   However, farmers are required to keep their land in good agricultural and environmental condition which can be achieved by continuous mowing/ topping but is more easily achieved by grazing livestock.

Eddeie Punch went on to point out that, regarding eligibility, the key conditions are that farmers must have made an SFP application in 2013 on a minimum of 1 entitlement (hectare) in order to be eligible to apply in 2015.  Otherwise, eligible farmers (e.g. new entrants) will have the option of applying to the national reserve.  The Minister has decided that 3% of the total fund will be cut from farmers’ payments to create a fund for this national reserve.

He continued:

“There are other cases where a farmer may have leased out his entitlements with land.  It seems that the key here is whether he has a private contract clause in his lease which states that all entitlements, including new entitlements created, revert to him at the conclusion of the lease.  In that case, he may be entitled to go back farming and benefit from entitlements but in the absence of such a clause, the entitlements will go to the leasee who has been farming the land in 2013.”

Mr Punch concluded:

“As a general comment, it is hard to see why it would be justified to give entitlements to farmers who are retired as they already benefit from leasing land out, sometimes with favourable tax treatment, at prices which are often well in excess of the potential profit that can be generated from that land.”