Farmers who need to make entitlement transfers to line up their first claim under the new Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) should consider doing so by 19 November this year.
Where the number of entitlements held for the 2015 claim will differ from that in the 2014 claim, an early transfer would be a belt-and-braces approach to ensure all was in order, said George Chichester, partner at Strutt & Parker.
The BPS will replace the existing Single Payments Scheme (SPS) on 1 January 2015, after which basic payment entitlements will be allocated. However, it is unclear at this stage whether transfers from the SPS to the BPS will be allowed after mid-November, so it was wise to do it before then, advised Mr Chichester. “It’s better to be safe and get your house in order now, than wait and assume DEFRA will do what you would expect them to,” he said.
Entitlement transfers are done through an RLE1 form, for which the Rural Payments Agency requires a six-week processing time, hence the 19 November deadline suggested by Mr Chichester.
Entitlements under the new scheme will be based on the number of SPS entitlements a farmer holds on 31 December 2014. Farmers should therefore match their 2014 claims with what they will need to claim in 2015, he said.
Anyone claiming on more land in 2015 than in 2014 will not be allocated extra entitlements. Similarly, if a farmer claims on less land in 2015 than the previous year, entitlements will be lost. To prevent this, Mr Chichester advises selling excess SFP entitlements before 19 November.
It remained unclear how new farming entrants in 2015 would gain entitlements under the BPS scheme without an existing claim from 2014. However, it was hoped a transfer mechanism would be created. Those who knew they were buying farmland in 2015, or entering a tenancy, should also transfer entitlements before mid-November to avoid this issue.
The change to a minimum claim area of 5ha for 2015 would mean 16,000 claimants would be removed from the scheme, some of whom would trade their SFPs before this happened. This meant there were likely to be SPS entitlements on the market for those seeking to add to their claim, ready for 2015.