Farm advisers have been trying to ease confusion over single payment entitlement transfer deadlines, with farmers still unsure which date to aim for.

Although farmers transferring single payment entitlements to support 2006 claims, where the recipient is not in occupation of the matching land until the transfer date, apparently need to complete and return the entitlement transfer form (RLE1) to the Rural Payments Agency by 19 March, most will not face this deadline.

For land to match entitlements and unlock 2006 payments, the farmer must be in occupation for a qualifying 10-month period, which can start no later than 30 April.

But the RPA requires notification of entitlement transfers six weeks before this, effectively bringing the deadline forward to 19 March.

Jeremy Moody, of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, said the 19 March deadline applied to cases where the transfer of entitlements was simultaneous with the transfer of land.

“But if the transferee’s occupying period can be started ahead of the transfer of entitlements, 19 March is no longer relevant – the deadline goes back to 2 April.”

There were two ways this could be done, Mr Moody said.

“In the case of a sale, the parties may exchange and set up a short farm business tenancy to cover the gap until completion.

In the case of tenants, an initial, short-term lease could later be substituted by the long-term agreement, leasing land and entitlements.”

Claire Kingston of the Laurence Gould Partnership said: “DEFRA intends to begin issuing entitlement statements from 14 February and complete the process within two weeks.

“This will leave some farmers with a very narrow window in which to transfer entitlements.”

Farmers can request a copy of the RLE1 form from the RPA now.

“The most important thing is to apply for this form now – not wait until the definitive entitlements statement is issued.”