Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food
I am today announcing arrangements for how payment region classifications for the new CAP Basic Payment Scheme may be reviewed. A Technical Review Process is to be introduced, commencing when Rural Payments Wales (RPW) write to current Pillar 1 claimants informing them of their provisional payment region classifications. Prior to that, definitions of Wales’ payment regions will be set out in a Statutory Instrument.
In January I announced that the new CAP Pillar 1 payment arrangements – the Basic Payment Scheme – would be based on Welsh farmland being classified in three payment regions: moorland, SDA, and DA / lowland in a combined region. These recognised the different agricultural qualities of land and would be a base for a differential regional payment system. A regional system is the best policy choice to achieve the least disruption to current claimants’ payments; a goal on which I and the unions and other stakeholder bodies have long agreed is of fundamental importance for the stability and well being of Welsh farming in securing a safe transition to a wholly area based payment system by 2019.
Since I consulted last summer on having a moorland region there have been questions asked on the need to have a means to remove agriculturally improved land from it. Most of that was achieved by introducing an altitude criterion that limited moorland to land situated 400 metres or higher. However, a small area of improved land remains and I have been considering how best to deal with it. I have noted the points made in recent weeks in well illustrated examples of land where there is clear evidence of agricultural improvement. I wish to address these situations.
The Technical Review Process I am announcing today will achieve this. Claimants will have 30 days to make representations about a payment region classification after RPW advises them of their provisional classifications. Representations must put forward a case, objectively stating why the land should be reclassified and be supported by evidence such as photographs. In the first instance this will be considered by technically trained officials who will decide whether the land in question should be reclassified. It is my hope that it should be possible to resolve most cases at this point. However, should the decision be that the provisional classification stands, the claimant would have a further 60 days to commission and supply a technical report on the quality of the land in question, to be undertaken by a suitably qualified person. That report, along with the original and any further evidence, would then be considered by an independent expert panel comprising a joint representative of the farming unions and stakeholder bodies, an academic, and a technically trained Welsh Government official. The panel would make a final decision. My hope and belief is that this process should address all reasonable claims for reclassification.