sheep on mountainside

As pressure mounts on Welsh farmers to meet the 15 May deadline for submitting new-style single application forms (SAF), the Welsh government is increasing access to frontline support staff.

From 5 May, Welsh government offices at Carmarthen, Llandrindod Wells and Caernarfon will be open for longer, as late as 9pm on 14 and 15 May. There will also be a weekend opening, from 8am to 2pm on 9 and 10 May.

The extended hours, which also include opening until 7pm from 5 to 8 May inclusive and until 7pm on 11, 12 and 13 May, come as many farmers struggle to get to grips with the new forms.

See also: Red alert for farmers as SFP deadline edges closer

Deputy minister for farming and food Rebecca Evans said farmers will get access to computers at the three offices and dedicated one-to-one support if needed.

Although nearly 7,000 applications have been submitted so far, the minister admitted the forms could take longer for farmers to complete this year because of changes to how the Basic Payment Scheme will be delivered in Wales.

“I am conscious that any delay to the receipt of SAFs would inevitably have knock-on impacts to part payments to all applicants under the Basic Payment Scheme and to payments on existing land-based rural development schemes,’’ she said.

“This, coupled with the importance of cashflow for farm businesses, is the reason that Wales will be sticking with the original deadline of 15 May, and why I am encouraging farmers to get on with submitting their forms.’’

Farmers will need to make an appointment to use the computers and can do so by telephoning 0300 062 5004. Staff will be on hand at the offices to check for basic errors on paper forms.

The Rural Payments Wales Customer Contact Centre is also operating extended opening hours to deliver advice by telephone, email or via an online messaging service.