Basic Payment Scheme - Active Farmer

One of the most misunderstood elements of the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) are the rules on claimant eligibility. Possibly incorrectly described as the “Active Farmer” test, many claimants for BPS may fall foul of this requirement even though they believe themselves to be actively farming.

Under the new definition criteria the EU Commission has clarified an “Active” farmer as one who undertakes an ‘agricultural activity’ which is defined as one of the following:

  • Producing, rearing, growing agricultural produce, including harvesting, milking, breeding animals and keeping animals for farming purposes;
  • Keeping land so it is suitable for grazing or cultivation without extra preparatory work;
  • Doing the minimum required on land that is naturally kept suitable for grazing or cultivation.

This part is relatively straightforward, but in order to prevent perceived non-deserving entities from claiming public monies aimed at agricultural support, the EU has gone further and compiled a so-called “negative list” of claimants who will be excluded from receiving payments. These are:

1. Claimants who, unless their annual claim is less than € 5,000, undertake excluded activities as set out under Article 9 of the main Regulation. These excluded activities relate to claimants who “operate” any of the following:

  • Airports
  • Railway Services
  • Waterworks
  • Real Estate Services
  • Permanent sport and recreational grounds

However, a later amendment to the rules allowed claimants to “re-qualify” if they claimed on 36 hectares or more of eligible, agricultural land.

2. Claimants whose agricultural area is mainly “naturally kept land” but who do not undertake the minimum required activity on it.

This did not cause problems for our landowner clients who have traditionally operated a grazing licence without further input in terms of management in 2015.

The Active Farmer criteria will be an annual assessment so even if a claimant meets the criteria in one year they must consider all changes to their circumstances which may preclude them in future.

Once more detailed guidance from the EU & Defra is available we can advise clients on whether they may be affected by these rules and if so whether there are opportunities and methods to overcome them. For further information on any aspect of the Active Farmer test, contact Anthony Wright on 01285 648107.