THE NEW SP5 form for claiming the single farm payment, which was previewed by the industry this week, holds little to fear, say the first consultants to see the document.

But farmers must not underestimate the importance of the form – which will replace IACS forms – said Savills’ Simon Gardner. “We need to be absolutely clear that 2005 is the only chance to register land for the SFP.”

Mr Gardner said first impressions were that the form was farmer-friendly, but it was important people read the “huge” number of guidance notes, especially those relating to cross-compliance, before getting stuck in. “Some of the questions apply to individual council regulations and by signing the form you are saying you understand everything.”

Jonathan Armitage of Strutt & Parker said the form was so vital because it fulfilled so many roles. “It establishes your entitlement, it identifies land you farm that will be subject to cross-compliance, it is your claim for SFP in 2005, it covers national reserve applications and private contract clause transfers, as well as fruit, vegetable and potato authorisations,” said Mr Armitage.

Both consultants said it was advisable to prepare for the forms in advance – collecting documentary evidence to back up national reserve claims and sorting out any landlord/tenant issues, for example – because they would only start arriving at the end of March, leaving little time before the May 16 deadline.

But DEFRA had also said it would start circulating sample forms to farmers soon, they added.