BPS documents © Tim Scrivener© Tim Scrivener

Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts offer free advice on legal, finance, tax, insurance, farm management and land issues.

Here Jon Dearsley – Food and Farming consultant, Savills – offers guidance on the Basic Payments Scheme.

Q My 2015 BPS statement has arrived and I am concerned that it shows a penalty which I do not think is right. What shall I do?

A Since the introduction of the new scheme last year there have been a number of teething problems which are taking time to resolve. Penalties are applied if an application is late, certain changes are made to an application, the application does not include all the agricultural land within the holding numbers, the claimed area is significantly larger than the farm’s eligible area, the farm provides false evidence or a farmer does not follow the cross-compliance rules.

Before contacting the RPA, thoroughly check your existing application to see if any genuine errors have been made. It’s also worth doing this if you are still completing your 2016 claim as much of the mapping and land use information will need to be checked anyway.

See also: Should I leave HLS for a Countryside Stewardship Agreement?

Assuming that the form was submitted correctly, as the vast majority were, the next step is to establish from where the error has come. If you can log on to the RPA website and download your business information data it will be possible to cross-reference the information.  

Jon Dearsley, Food and Farming Consultant, Savills

For example, if a parcel is woodland but shows on the RPA system as arable land it might explain why there is an overclaim.

In most situations any alleged overclaims are doubled when the penalty is applied and as a result dividing the penalty area by two may help identify where the error has occurred.

Often there have been manual data entry errors which have led to ineligible areas being activated. It is important to update these errors and establish the correct number of entitlements for the 2015 year when there was a “use it or lose it” approach to entitlements.

Make the most of the limited information in your claim statement and  understand how penalties are applied.

More on this can be found in the BPS handbook. Taking the example above, if it was a 5ha field that was “overclaimed”, and it was more than 3% but less than 20% of the claimed area, then the claim would be reduced by 5ha and a 10ha penalty would be applied in addition.

Once you have identified the source of the error, contact the RPA to highlight the problem and rectify the situation. It is worth doing this in writing making the correspondence easier to trace.

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