Farmers who applied to the national reserve when they claimed the single farm payment earlier this year have yet more paperwork to look forward to.

The Rural Payments Agency has just announced that a new form, the SP5E, will be sent to all of the circa 17,000 national reserve applicants by the beginning of October with a 4 November deadline.

Tom Oates, of Northumberland consultant George F White, said some of his clients had already received a copy of the form and, even though it wasn’t difficult, it could require a lot of fact-finding in a short period at a busy time of the year.

“One of the crucial aspects of the form is that it has to be returned within the critical 21-day deadline. It is vital that everybody who applied for the national reserve gets themself ready immediately. The timing is unfortunate as farmers will be rushed off their feet combining, sowing or preparing for sheep or suckled calf sales.”

An RPA spokesman said the form was needed because many applicants had not supplied sufficient documentary evidence supporting their applications

However, Jeremy Moody, secretary of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, said the original SP5 had never specified that any supporting evidence was required. “I made the point in December that more guidance and a better structured form was needed.”

However, he was still hopeful that the RPA was on track to process all of the claims in time.

Chris Leney, of rural consultant Robinson & Hall, said the knock-on effect of any delays could be serious. “I think the RPA underestimated the amount of applications and the subsequent amount of paperwork.”

He was worried that farmers could be making their 2006 SFP claims without even knowing their 2005 entitlements.