I either meet, or discuss with the chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) almost weekly to discuss agency progress on a range of issues including the Rural Land Register (RLR).
The RLR Mapping Update exercise currently in progress uses the most recent Ordnance Survey (OS) data available in conjunction with aerial photography to update the RLR maps. This includes improving the positional accuracy of our map data and reflecting any real world change and ineligible land recorded by OS and farmers. The acreage for each field is calculated in hectares after the farmer has agreed the boundaries and declared any further land which is ineligible for the SPS payment.
As of 12 March 2010, approximately half of the 107,000 farmers who were sent maps as part of the RLR Mapping Update had agreed with their maps and the remaining half had requested changes to be made. RPA has now completed the request and sent confirmatory maps to over 72 per cent. of these farmers. Of these, only 3 per cent. have requested further changes to be made, many of which are new and have not been requested previously.
[holding answer 18 March 2010]: The UK Government's position on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was set out in the joint DEFRA/Treasury CAP Vision published in 2005. We want to see the elimination of all Direct Payments under Pillar I of the CAP. Direct Payments are an expensive and inefficient mechanism and undermine the ability of farmers to be truly competitive. They do not help farmers to tackle the challenges of the future and our policy is therefore to see them phased out by a carefully managed transition by 2015-20. A sustainable CAP would comprise of EU spending on agriculture that would be based on the current Pillar II, allowing a considerable reduction in total spending by the EU on agriculture and bringing this into line with other sectors.