The RPA have started to send out dual use letters to farmers.
Where two parties are claiming on the same piece of land at the same time but under different schemes e.g. one party claiming SPS, the other claiming environmental stewardship. This is different to a dual claim, where two parties are claiming the same scheme (SPS) on the same parcel of land.
The RPA can spot dual use situations due to cross checking with Natural England and the Forestry Commission data on who is claiming on what fields. Under both SPS and agri-environment schemes, there is a requirement to have a certain level of control or occupation of the land, in order to be eligible to claim on the land. Under SPS rules, there is a requirement to have ‘land at your disposal’ in order to be eligible to claim SPS.
The NFU advises farmers to check the rules in the 2012 SPS supplement (section E) and Environmental stewardship / Woodland guidance.
The RPA may not be looking for information on all of the fields in a dual use situation.
If you instructed a professional adviser to draw up an agreement between you and the other party, then we would recommend you speak to the adviser before responding to the RPA. This agreement should be in writing and have set out the rights and responsibilities for each party using the land in claiming under the respective schemes and which allows both claims to fulfil the respective scheme rules.
If the RPA find that the party claiming SPS is not eligible to claim, the land in question will be removed from the SPS claim. This will result in some of the entitlements not being activated, and the RPA are likely to impose penalties for over-declaring eligible land. The level of penalty will be dependant on the size of the over-declaration, and whether the RPA considers that it was a negligent or intentional act.
If Natural England or the Forestry Commission find that the other party is not eligible to claim for environmental stewardship, reductions and penalties may apply to that claim also.
Any delay in responding to the RPA could delay the payment of the 2012 SPS. As the NFU suggests, you might also want to consider taking professional advice on your response to the RPA.