An East Yorkshire farming couple say their business faces an uncertain future unless they can win their fight to recover their full single farm payment entitlement, after they made a mistake when they filled in their claim forms.

Helen and David Ellis, who run two separate acreages at Bursea Farm, Holme-on-Spalding Moor, entered 57ha (140 acres) of
arable cropping in the PC1 coded section, which was intended for forestry and other non-eligible land. It should have been put in the OT1, or other crops category.

Mrs Ellis was not aware of the mistake until she spotted a discrepancy in the entitlement forms when they arrived this March.

She immediately wrote to inform the Rural Payments Agency and was eventually told by phone that the claims would be rectified and the money would be paid.

But earlier this month, she was told that because the RPA had not been notified of the mix-up by the end of May 2005, both claims were unlikely to be upheld.

Mr Ellis has since had a letter confirming that his application on 39ha (96 acres) was ineligible, while Mrs Ellis has been paid on 1.7ha (4.2 acres) without explanation, although her claim for a further 16.4ha (40 acres) has not been addressed.

“This involves a substantial amount of money and we are making ourselves ill worrying about what will happen if our appeal fails,” said Mrs Ellis.

“I feel very angry.

The RPA makes mistakes all the time, but we are being heavily penalised for a simple human error.

Officials are used to these systems because they deal with them every day, but to us they seemed very complicated.”

An RPA spokesman told Farmers Weekly this week that Mr and Mrs Ellis’s claims were under review and the Agency was hopeful that the outcome would be satisfactory.

This is despite a letter in the past week suggesting a far less optimistic outcome Mrs Ellis has also appealed to her local MP, David Davis, who has written to the RPA explaining the details of the case.

He is still waiting for a response.

wendy@sykehall.freeserve.co.uk