A free telephone service as well as online and face-to-face support will be available to help customers registering for the new CAP online scheme.

Defra will be introducing the online application and payment service gradually in England, first by direct invite only to groups of farmers and landowners over the coming months.

The new digital service is being introduced gradually, by invite only, to groups of customers over the coming months, with the majority of Defra’s 100,000 customers being invited on around late October.

A small number of customers have already been invited to use the online service and give Defra feedback before it is rolled out to the public later this year.

During the coming months, farmers and landowners will be registering for and using the CAP Information Service to check their personal and business details and see and update interactive online maps of their land before the system goes live in 2015.

This summer, three digital support centres (DSCs) will be set up in Cumbria and Devon for a limited number of applicants to test the service.

The aim is to offer assisted face-to-face support for users who may have problems, or cannot access the system online.

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Technical assistants will sit down with farmers and landowners to demonstrate how to register on the system and explain the claims process.

Over the coming months, more DSCs will be opened across England and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is currently identifying appropriate locations.

Farm minister George Eustice said the digital-only system would create a “simpler, more user-friendly service” for all of the CAP schemes.

“It will make it much easier and simpler for farmers to manage their applications to the new CAP schemes by removing the burden of form-filling,” he added.

The RPA said it was keen to avoid a repeat of the botched handling of the Single Payment Scheme in 2005, which is why it has opted for a gradual transition this time around.