Hudson on ... deciphering Defra definitions

Defra's decision to bring horticulture into the single payment scheme in 2005 was always going to lead to problems.

By problems, I'm not referring to the bureaucracy of authorisations nor the difficulties with the Rural Payments Agency. The other issue with Defra's decision was that some sectors were excluded - notably land used to grow permanent fruit and nursery crops.

To be fair to Defra, it was tied by the European Commission definition of eligible land, which excluded permanent crops. Despite that, for some growers of these crops at least, it always felt like an injustice had been done.

NFU lobbying of the European Commission led to a decision as part of the reform of the fruit and vegetable regime that changed the definition of eligible land and added nurseries. Growers of these crops now have the chance to receive entitlements on this land.

A Defra consultation asked when growers would like to receive entitlements. All said as soon as possible, ie 2009. The consultation asked how the value of the entitlements should be determined; most respondents said the fairest and simplest way was flat-rate allocation.

More contentious is how to determine the number of entitlements for each grower. Defra says the EU regulations dictate that this must be according to the number of hectares the grower has under permanent fruit and nursery crops in the 2008 harvest year.

But what about immature trees? And what about growers that grubbed their orchards post-2005 - will they be able to acquire entitlements on "naked" land? We will be discussing these issues and more with Defra so that the injustice of 2005 can finally be put right.

- Phil Hudson is chief horticultural adviser at the NFU.

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