Advice for                                 

Basic Payment Schemes 

There are just a few weeks left to submit 2017 Basic Payment Scheme claims. And with pressure on farm profits, it’s more important than ever to make sure claims are accurate and correct. Bidwells’ Beth Duchesne examines the 2017 claim process.

Most readers will now have adjusted to the landscape of the Basic Payment Scheme – gone are the (really good) A3 Rural Land Register maps; but the online system was up and running for last year’s claim and many farmers see benefits to using it.

The RPA have worked extremely hard this year to ensure payments were made as soon as the payment window opened in December 2016. At the time of writing, 95% of claimants had received their 2016 BPS monies, a vast improvement on 2015.

But there are still come farmers waiting for their payment, and unfortunately these are likely to be the more complicated claims – those which include common land, a cross-border claim, or where the farm received and inspection and the findings have still to be processed. This will not seem particularly fair to those still waiting, and the RPA needs to resolve these claims quickly, before the 2017 campaign gets underway.

At least it is now known that those who have not received their BPS by 31 March will receive a bridging payment of approximately 75% of total claim value. Unfortunately, it looks to us as though problems with 2015 claims have not all been corrected, and have been carried forward into your 2016 claims too.

 

Land Cover vs Land Use

Some readers may have been surprised to find on their Claim Statements, that they had been penalised for an “over-declaration”. This penalty is applied when a farmer claims on land which RPA says in ineligible, not because they do not have enough entitlements. Quite often these have been incorrectly applied to a claim, when the “Land Cover” of the field doesn’t match the “Land Use” according to what you put on the form.

The term “Land Use” will be familiar to most farmers claiming BPS – it is what you tell the RPA is happening in that land parcel on 15th May – recorded as a code (e.g. AC63 – winter barley).

“Land Cover” is something that farmers haven’t really had to worry about, and is the overarching cover for the parcel, as determined by the RPA mapping system. Land Cover is only ever “Arable Land”, “Permanent Grassland”, “Permanent Crops” or “Non-agricultural”.

One of the main reasons leading to penalties, is when the Land Use specified by the farmer on the claim form does not match the Land Cover as determined by the RPA. For example, the RPA’s Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) reckons the Land Cover of a field is, say, Permanent Grassland. But the farmer has chosen an arable Land Use Code. The computer recognises this as a ‘clash’ and throws the field out of the calculation, thus giving you an over-declaration penalty and possibly a greening penalty too.

To avoid this happening again, check the Land Cover of the parcels on your online maps, and if you notice that one of them is wrong, contact the RPA by email or letter.  

 

Problems with 2016 claims? Tell the RPA now.

If you have got any NEW complaints or queries with your 2016 payment, the RPA have created a BPS Payment Query Form, available here.

The form is designed to give the RPA all the information they would need to look into your query, and can be sent either by post or by email to ruralpayments@defra.gsi.gov.uk.  

 

Active Farmer in 2017

Farmers should avoid being tripped up by a change to the wording of the Active Farmer declaration. The question has changed to: “Do you operate one or more of the following non-agricultural activities (as described in the BPS guidance)?”so it is necessary for you to tick the “No “box if you are an active farmer.  In previous years, one ticked “yes” to declare themselves an Active Farmer.

 

2017 Claims

In general, not a lot has changed for the 2017 application period. However, I would recommend reading the 2017 guidance and the questions on the application form carefully. The computer system is mostly the same as 2016. However, there are some important differences.

The main difference from 2016 is the new and improved Entitlements screen. The new screens show a record of all entitlements transfers that have been completed, any leased entitlements and any outstanding transfers. As with last year, you can transfer entitlements and whole field parcels online without the need for an RLE1 form. If you want to transfer part of a field parcel, this still needs to be done with a hard-copy RLE1 form and sketch map.  

The RPA is encouraging all farmers to claim online. All guidance is available online on the .gov website. Paper applications will only be sent to those claimants who applied on paper in 2016, and were not represented by an agent. If you receive a paper application but would like to apply online, contact the RPA on 03000 200 301 to set up your online application.

REMEMBER, that even if you have submitted supporting evidence in the past (young farmers certificate, organic land certification, accountability etc) that this evidence needs to be re-submitted this year, even if this is just a letter confirming that the business circumstances have not changed.

 

Deadline

The application deadline is midnight, Monday 15 May 2017. This is for all online and paper applications, including any supporting documentation. So, make sure that if you need to send any organic certification, accountability documents, continuation booklets, RLE1 forms etc. that they are sent by post and are received by the RPA before the deadline.

 

Cross-Compliance

From 1 January 2017 the new cross compliance rules in England 2017 came into effect. The min one is the extension of GAEC 1, buffer strips next to watercourses, to include fields less than 2 hectares, and the other being the proposed changes to the NVZ areas in England.

Most farmers will be un-effected by the NVZ changes (a few who were not previously in an NVZ zone may now be in one), and a handful would have been taken out completely. However, if you are one of the lucky ones, you will still need to keep your NVZ records for 5 years.  For anyone who isn’t sure about the NVZ zones and any changes for their holding, the Environment Agency ‘What’s in your backyard’ map is a brilliant tool, and shows all the existing and proposed NVZ areas across England. Visit here

The top 10 Cross compliance failures in 2015 are shown in the chart:

123

There was a 46.6% failure rate at inspection for Cattle Identification and Registration (SMR 7) in 2015, the largest failure rate of any cross compliance area. This was as a result of not keeping accurate records of cattle movements and deaths, and animals not existing on farm records at all. 

Nearly a third of farms inspected failed NVZ Regulations (SMR 1) in 2015. Again, the biggest element of failure being no records at all, or incomplete records at the time of inspection.

 

What to do now

It’s certainly worth going online and checking your maps as soon as you can. Furthermore, time spent examining Land Use in the online system will be time well spent.

The Land Use screen should show what the RPA thinks your claim looks like, according to the 2016 information you submitted. It’s important to go through this line by line and confirm that what is on this screen is correct. We have found a glitch in the system where if you do not physically click into the field parcel to amend the land use code, the parcel does not pull through to the PDF report. Suppose you have a field parcel of Permanent Grassland, which is showing as PG01 (Permanent Pasture) on the Land Use screen. Nothing has changed for 2017, so you skip past the parcel and move on to the next field. Because you haven’t physically clicked into that parcel, it may not show on the PDF report once it has been re-generated. The RPA are aware of this, but in the meantime we have found a work-around for this, by clicking into each line, even if we are not changing any information.

 

2018 and beyond

Following the Brexit vote in June last year, the future of farm support as we know it is uncertain. However, we will be able to apply for BPS until 2019. We already know that the greening rules will be changing for the 2018 claim year, and it is likely that any land used for Ecological Focus Areas will have restrictions on the use of Plant Protection Products. The pressure is on for the RPA to realise the new greening rules as soon as possible, as it is likely to mean that many farmers and landowners will need to re-think how they will meet the greening criteria of BPS going forward.

Don’t forget some readers may have Environmental Stewardship, including new Countryside Stewardship scheme claim forms which will need completing and submitting by 15th May too!

*Beth Duchesne is a farm business consultant with Bidwells. She can be contacted on 01223 559225 or beth.duchesne@bidwells.co.uk

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