Is it worth applying for the Single Payment Scheme?

We ask industry figures for their views following last week's announcement of changes to SPS eligibility rules.

YES - James Coles, managing director, James Coles Nurseries

"As tree growers we have been signed up from the start but could only claim on the grassed-off areas, not where the crops are.

"Now it looks as though we'll be able to claim for everything. We have had to pay a consultant to help us fill in the form every year because it is impossible; it's hours of work and written in typical government-speak. We'll have to use the consultant to help us again with this. The initial set-up is quite laborious and in the first year it actually lost us money. As we'll now be able to claim for every bit of land I am hoping it will benefit us."

MAYBE - Robert Crowder, managing director, W Crowder and Sons Nurseries

"We will definitely be applying but it is a function of scale really.

"We have a significant acreage of nursery stock, and we actually get a payment on the land that is not in nursery crop production so we are already filling in the forms and making claims.

"We have a land agent do this on our behalf; it is an admin burden we don't want to spend a lot of time on ourselves.

"The payments aren't massive so it might not be worth it for some people; it depends on the size of the nursery and the time and effort required. That is different for each individual grower."

MAYBE - David Brown, policy adviser, Horticultural Trades Association

"The application process involves a lot of form filling and if you are chosen as one of the nurseries to be inspected that would be a considerable time commitment.

"Anyone who applies and meets the criteria would get the entitlement but there is a balance as to whether it is worth people's while. With most bureaucracy, the costs for the business are in the first year but once you are over that, the cost-to-benefit ratio changes.

"People need to look at the scheme and make a proper business decision because it is not just for one year, it is ongoing."

MAYBE - Doug Reade, sales and marketing director, Wyevale Nurseries

"We have been getting SPS money for our non-cropped fields already so this will bring in our cropped areas as well. However, until we see the forms we don't know if it is going to be worth our going ahead and filling them in.

"We might have to employ a professional to help us and at what they charge per hour it may offset the benefits we would get.

"We will get the forms but we are unsure about the application process and we'd really like an 'idiot's' guide to filling them in but we won't do it if the cost is detrimental to our business."


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