THE NEXT six weeks offer farmers the only chance to secure their rights to the new single payment entitlements and actual payment for 2005 under a system that could last beyond 2012.

 SP5 forms are the means to do that in England. Farmers who do not establish entitlements with this form will have no right to any part of the single payment for its lifetime unless they later buy, lease or inherit entitlements. Simply occupying land in 2006 without any entitlements will mean no payment.

The forms must be sent back by May 16. Late applications will see payments cut by 4% per working day before becoming ineligible on June 10. So, if you need extra sheets or forms, ask early.

 If you have not received your SP5 forms, contact the Rural Payments Agency. Where you have land in more than one region, you should receive all forms from the area where most of your land is in 2005. If you are missing some, ask now, the authorities do not know of all the cross-border farmers.

 If as a new farmer, an unsupp<00AD>orted farmer or horse grazier, the RPA has no record of you, contact the customer service centre for a reference number and holding number.

Be clear who is the claimant. There is value for most farmers in their history from the reference period, but only the old claimant has it. If there has been a business merger or division, an inheritance or change of legal status, tell the RPA on form SP3 by May 16.

And do not be confused by the language on the form. Registering land only means putting it on the Rural Land Register, essential for payment. Record all the agricultural land you occupy when applying on the field data sheet SP5b. Entitlements do not have to be established on all of it, but only on the area that you choose.

However, the chosen area of entitle<00AD>ments will set the area of land that will need to be occupied for each year of the new scheme to be fully paid. Claiming payment is called “activation” and can only be done on land that meets the chosen 10-month period.

andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk