Farmers and consultants are concerned that the 2006 Single Farm Payment application forms are being sent out without any pre-populated information on them and with insufficient Field Data Sheets.

Richard Wordsworth, NFU single payment scheme adviser, said the union had been led to believe that most of the 2006 forms would be pre-populated with information submitted to the Rural Payments Agency last year.

But he said he was taking calls from members stating that, apart from their names and addresses, the forms were blank – even though the covering letter stated that they were populated.

“To make matters worse there are not enough blank Field Data Sheets or spaces to enter all of the data from scratch; some have got just two sheets to cover 100-plus fields,” he said.

“Members have called the Customer Service Centre and they have been told that it will take a week to get the spare sheets out to them.”

Mr Wordsworth said the union was also concerned that some farmers would not have enough time to fill in their 2006 forms because some were not due to arrive until 20 April.

Entitlements

The other unresolved issue was how farmers who still have unvalidated entitlements were meant to complete the forms.

“Some of our members are quite rightly asking what information is supposed to be used to complete this year’s application with,” he said.

Consultant John Howard who completes 60 SP5 forms for farmer clients, said just six had received their packs by 12 April and they appeared to include mistakes.

“The first form I attempted had a huge error.

The client had bought a large number of extra acres.

But they simply do not appear on the pre-populated forms,” said Mr Howard.

“All the helpline could suggest was that they printed out another set of forms in the hope that the computer would miraculously find the information and put it on,” he said.

The other option, he was told, was to start from scratch with the bought-in fields.

“That means checking, measuring and plotting split fields.

That adds up to a day’s work for this farm – and that is just one out of the 60 forms to be completed.”

An RPA spokesman said the agency would shortly publish some guidance for the 2006 scheme year on its website.

He said farmers who had insufficient Field Data Sheets should contact the CSC.

Single Farm Payment Scheme special report from FWi

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk