Farmers in England have until 31 May to submit their 2006 Single Payment Scheme application, junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach has confirmed.

Speaking at the Easy Sheep event in Melton Mowbray, Lord Bach urged farmers to submit their form to the Rural Payments Agency by the 15 May deadline wherever possible.

However, in recognition of difficulties this year in the distribution of application forms, he also announced that late claim penalties will not be applied to applications received between 15 and 31 May.

“After difficulties experienced this year, everybody wants payments under the 2006 Single Payment Scheme to start as early as possible,” he said.

“The timely submission of application forms is critical to that and I would, therefore, urge all farmers to continue to aim to meet the 15 May deadline.

“However, I know that there have been real problems this year with the distribution of forms and my regular discussions with farm leaders have brought home to me the difficulties that this has created for some farmers.

“I think it is right that every farmer should have a reasonable amount of time to complete the form. In recognition of this, I am today announcing that the normal late claim penalties will not apply until 1 June.”

Applications received by the RPA after 15 May usually attract a penalty of 1% per working day up to 9 June. Any applications received after 9 June are rejected.

The effect of today’s announcement is that applications received between 16 and 31 May will not attract a late application penalty. Applications received after this date will attract the normal 1% per working day penalty.