Farm leaders and consultants have said they are becoming increasingly anxious about 2006 single farm payment applications and said the government must give producers more flexibility.

The industry is concerned because the application deadline of 15 May is fast approaching, yet they understand about 20,000 claimants are still to receive their SP5 form.

They have also pointed out that many producers have been sent forms without pre-populated information and the Rural Payments Agency has said it could take two weeks to send out a replacement pre-populated form.

Other farmers are confused about how to fill in their forms because they still have unvalidated entitlements.

The RPA has stated that it will not penalise farmers if they make a mistake on their 2006 single farm payment application form because of incorrect information supplied to them by the agency.

In a letter to industry stakeholders, acting chief executive of the RPA, Mark Addison, said:

“We recognise that delays caused in the processing of 2005 Single Payment Scheme claims may lead to inaccurate SPS claims being filed in 2006.

“To the extent that any such inaccuracies are a direct result of our actions, we will ensure that any affected 2006 SPS claims will not be prejudiced.”

The agency has also published guidance notes to help producers fill in this year’s SP5, but at the moment these are only available on its website.

The notes cover some Frequently Asked Questions put by farmers and the agency has also put forward a sample of the 2006 application form with annotated guidance on how to complete specific boxes.

The questions covered in the FAQ document include what farmers should do if they think they have errors in their entitlement statements.

It suggests producers who think they have the correct number of entitlements, but feel the value of them is wrong, should complete the SP5 using the information pre-populated on it, but also write to the Customer Service Centre explaining their concerns.

For farmers with other errors, it says:

“If you think that you have not been allocated the correct number and/or type of entitlements, it is essential that you complete the field data sheet(s) for your holding, entering sufficient area in column C10 of the field data sheet(s) to activate the maximum number of each type of entitlements that you expect to be finally allocated and wish to claim payment on for 2006.

Please attach a letter to your SP5 form, explaining what you have done and why.

We will then investigate your allocation and make any adjustments, if necessary.

“In these circumstances there will be no penalty for entering more land into column C10 than you need to activate your entitlements for payment (provided that this figure does not exceed the total area for the land parcel).”

For more answers from the RPA go to www.rpa.gov.uk

Single Farm Payment Scheme special report from FWi

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk