19. Payment Regions two and three
The normal minimum agricultural activity is to undertake an average level of stocking of 0.05 livestock units per hectare (LU/ha) for a period, or periods, totaling not less than 183 days in any calendar year, on all hectares.
A lower stocking density, in terms of numbers or period, may be acceptable if this can be justified by evidence. Evidence can be chronological records kept for an extended period (at least three years), evidencing in respect of the carrying capacity of the whole holding or part thereof (e.g. flock records, herd registers) or where stocking levels have been lowered as a result of an environmental management agreement with Scottish Natural Heritage or an agri-environmental commitment as part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme, again in terms of numbers or period, across the whole holding, or part thereof, a carrying capacity below 0.05 LU/ha.
If more than 50% of your holding is made up of fields classed as Payment Regions two and / or three, you must carry out the minimum agricultural activity (production or non-production alternative) on all these fields. If you do not, you will not meet the 'Active Farmer' eligibility criteria and will forfeit your rights to Direct Payments. If less than 50% of your holding is made up of fields classed as Payment Regions two and / or three, you must carry out the minimum agricultural activity (production or non-production alternative) on all fields claimed.
As a legitimate alternative to minimum stocking levels the farmer must carry out an annual Environmental Assessment across the whole holding, or part thereof, where land in Payment Regions two and three forms part of the holding. This will consist of a comprehensive assessment of the species and habitats present on the holding, involving six activities which must be carried out up to four times per year in relation to every hectare to be claimed.
The key activities are:
- a map and description of the farm environment
- a breeding bird, mammal, butterfly survey
- monitoring of habitats including plant health survey.
A farmer can choose to carry out a combination of stocking and an annual Environmental Assessment provided that the minimum agricultural activity requirement can be met on all hectares (e.g. stocking or survey).
For any part of the holding where the farmer has elected to undertake a Environmental Assessment, documentation of a survey in process must be made available to RPID's inspecting officers and in any event, when complete, must be sent to the relevant RPID area office no later than 31 August.
As completion of the survey is an eligibility requirement for the Basic Payment Scheme, no payments can be made unless the completed survey has been received.
The survey should be undertaken by an environmental consultant or other like person with suitable skills, which may include a member of the farming business. If a farmer chooses to use a third party, he will be expected to provide RPID's inspectors with receipts for procuring these services. 'Suitable skills' need to be
assessed based on proven evidence of knowledge of ecology, species and survey techniques (e.g. completion of other similar surveys, membership of professional or voluntary body such as the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, the Botanical Society of the British Isles and Ireland or a relevant university degree).
Guidance on the survey is included in Annex A.