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Farron challenges admin costs of single farm payments and launches new hill farming apprenticeship bid

January 28, 2009 4:26 PM

Shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA Tim Farron MP has revealed that thousands of payments under the single farm payment scheme are worth substantially less than the average cost of administering subsidy claims.

Processing individual payouts under the Single Payment Scheme costs an average of £742 however; figures obtained by Mr Farron in Parliament revealed that over 14,500 payments of under £400 were made in 2007. These figures include 636 claims of under £50 and one of just 70p.

Reforms to the EU scheme would bring in minimum payments for 2010, either set at between 100 and 200 euros or in the range of one to five hectares. Mr Farron has called for the introduction of a higher figure set at around £250, with the money saved from processing these claims to be given over to a new scheme to breathe new life into struggling hill farms.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"Single farm payments are there to support farmers and allow them to produce food and cope with a market that is staggeringly unfair. But what we have at the moment is a system that allows someone to put in a claim for 70p at an administrative cost to the taxpayer of £742!

"Bringing in a minimum payment would continue to provide support to farmers; but would also enable us to divert some of the resources to other parts of the industry - such as hill farmers - who really need help."

"Hill farming is in serious danger of disappearing from the UK altogether. I'd estimate that about 85% of all hill farmers have no likely successor when they retire. With the average age of hill farmers increasing each year, and in an industry which is dependent on children taking over the family business, this is troubling trend.

"With funding at a premium, it's important that we redirect this wasteful spending to bring new energy into hill farming. The £7million we would save by introducing a minimum threshold should be used to finance an apprenticeship scheme to provide the next generation of hill farmers.

"Cutting out the thousands of tiny claims would also mean that farmers get their payments on time. At present, farmers who are dependent on single farm payments to keep a roof over their heads are forced to wait for months because these incredibly small claims are clogging up the system."