Fears that single payment entitlements could only be transferred between working farmers have been dispelled by the Rural Payments Agency.

A statement issued this week said: “The RPA has now confirmed that farmers who applied successfully to establish entitlements in 2005 will be able to apply to transfer those entitlements before 15 May 2006, even if they retired from farming prior to definitive establishment.”

Previously, the RPA’s position had been that anyone wishing to deal would have to have been a farmer when the entitlements were allocated.

A spokesman said the move would simplify the transfer process in spring 2006.

“It will help to ensure that, where farming businesses have already been transferred, entitlements can be placed in the hands of the farmer who now needs to claim payment on them.”

Carl Atkin, at consultancy firm Bidwells, said the move would avoid the need to set up artificial arrangements and to restart people farming.

“At last sense has prevailed.

It has taken out a whole raft of paperwork.”

Hopes are rising that the window for entitlement transfers will be extended to allow for the delay to single farm payment receipts.

The last date on which transfer forms can currently be submitted to make a claim in 2006 is 2 April.

It is understood that DEFRA has applied to the European Commission for an extension, following industry pressure.

Strutt & Parker’s George Chichester, who has been pushing for more time, said: “Relaxing the trading deadlines would be a small token that would make farmers’ lives easier after the huge problems caused by late payments.”

He would like to see the deadline pushed to 1 May, by reducing the notification period for entitlement transfers from six to two weeks.

“It’s a tall order, but with 1.5bn of English farmers’ money delayed in the system and racking up interest payments on overdrafts and loans, it is the least that can be done.”

robert.harris@rbi.co.uk