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Farmers warned: check RPA small print

[Monday 13 February 2006]

BRITISH farmers who are expecting a long-awaited St Valentine's Day gift tomorrow - the confirmation of their support payments due from the Rural Payments Agency - are being warned to check the small print.

The payments are already a year overdue, due to the complexity of the system drawn up for England (as opposed to Scotland and Wales) but the government has promised that by tomorrow, farmers and landowners will finally know their entitlements.

However, Yorkshire farmers are being warned to read their RPA contracts with great care because of problems over "validation." Promised payments which have not been validated may still be made - but could cause problems in future.

The president of the Country Land and Business Association David Fursdon issued a statement at the weekend warning: "We are concerned that a high proportion may not be validated."

As always, the new rules - heralded as a great reform to Europe's notorious Common Agricultural Policy - are immensely complex, unlike the simpler methods adopted in Scotland and Wales, where farmers have already been paid.

But the Yorkshire branch of the CLA is warning that farmers who want to trade certain options with their neighbours might have future payments refused if they are not validated.

There are also concerns that the new system might also hit existing payments under successful, long-standing schemes for environmental protection of the countryside.

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