CAP package must have workable test

THE Tenant Farmers Association has reiterated its call for the European Commission to ensure its draft legal text for the forthcoming round of CAP reform includes a workable ‘active farmer’ test when it is published next week.

TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “The TFA has been something of a lone voice in the wilderness in calling for a workable active farmer test. However, in recent times, more and more people have come to see the sense of it.

“It is important to ensure the support available to assist farmers in meeting both production and environmental goals is actually going to the right people. A workable active farmer test will achieve that.”

The most recent leaked document from the European Commission suggested that an active farmer should be someone who was deriving more than five per cent of their income from farm-related activity.

Mr Dunn added: “This is not a workable definition. There will be many individuals and companies who will be actively farming but for whom farming represents just a small part of what they do.

“However, the economics of the land they are farming relies upon the support available. At an administrative level it will also create huge problems for the Rural Payments Agency and its sister organisations in other Member States who will have to sift through vast amounts of financial information at the point of application to determine eligibility. Many potential applicants will also be reluctant to provide this level of detail.

“The TFA’s preferred approach would be a self-assessed test based on what is actually happening on the ground. It would involve only those individuals who had land available to them for farming purposes, who were taking the entrepreneurial risk in relation to the activities taking place on the land and where they were in clear management control of those activities.

“Making it a self-assessed test minimises the amount of information that will need to be provided up-front but applicants would need to be put on notice that they would be liable to inspection on the criteria.”

The TFA is in active discussions with both the European Commission and Defra on this and wider issues to ensure that farm tenants are not disadvantaged by implementation of the next generation of the CAP.