Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
I am today giving an update on the progress of the Technical Review Process I set up to enable farmers to appeal their land regions for the Basic Payment Scheme. This process was set up to enable farmers to ask for reclassification of their land if they felt it was wrongly classified for payment purposes. It is important to me to ensure that payment regions are correct when the Basic Payment Scheme commences next year.
In January it was announced that the new CAP Pillar 1 BPS would be based on Welsh farmland being classified in three payment regions: Moorland, Severely Disadvantaged Area (SDA) and Disadvantaged Area (DA) and Lowland in a combined region termed ‘Other Land’. These recognised the different agricultural qualities of land as a base for a regional payment system. Due to some land in the Moorland region having been agriculturally improved, it was restricted by the removal of all land classified in 1992 as Moorland below 400m which was reclassified as SDA. The Welsh Government recognised that some land that was improved remained in the Moorland Region and there needed to be opportunity for farmers to ask for it to be reclassified. The technical review process addresses this by allowing farmers to request any of their land is reclassified if it is evident that its condition meets another payment region definition.
The process has two Stages. Stage 1 was completed using aerial photography and crop codes, offering a simple process for claimants with as little input as possible. A total of 299 farmers applied to the process amounting to over 30,000 hectares of land. All applicants have received their decision letters. We have reclassified all field parcels for 13 farmers, and some field parcels for a further 32 farmers. 254 farmers have been rejected and are eligible for Stage 2.
Claimants who have had rejected land parcels at Stage 1 are able to apply to Stage 2. This part of the process requires a detailed field survey report completed by a CIEEM professional. This report will give a full assessment of the land which will be considered by an expert panel. This panel will be made up of a Welsh Government technical expert, Dr Ian Rugg, a representative nominated by industry stakeholders, Dr Iwan Owen, and an academic in agronomy, Dr Mariecia Fraser. The panel will consider the land report and based on this report make recommendations which I will consider in order to decide whether the land parcel should be reclassified.
It is up to the claimant whether they use Stage 2 of the process. They will not automatically be passed to this stage following their Stage 1 decision. The decision letters will give them their options and they can decide based upon this. I recognise there is a cost attached to the detailed land report. I have decided to refund up to £1500 (including VAT) of this cost for successful claims. I decided on this figure because I wanted to apply a level of reimbursement that balances the benefits a successful decision would deliver for the claimant, along with ensuring I get the best value for public money.
It is my hope and belief that this process will address all reasonable claims for reclassification and will be completed well in time for the implementation of the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015.