FIRST IMPRESSIONS of the SP5 form, crucial to claiming the new single farm payment, are mixed. For some it will be straightforward, but others will need to exercise caution.

Not every section of the form will be familiar, even to farmers who are used to completing IACS forms, says Kate Russell of consultant Webb Paton.

 “Items such as land use codes and set-aside codes will be completely different from previous years, and farmers will be issued with a new single business identifier number, replacing trader, vendor and IACS numbers.”

James Woolford, one of Miss Russell”s clients, expects the form to be fairly straightforward on his 84ha (202-acre) dairy farm at Wootton Bassett, Wilts.

 But for farmers whose businesses have changed in the reference period, or who have tenancy issues to consider, there are several potholes to be negotiated.

 “What would happen to a tenant who secured SFP entitlements and then fell out with a landlord? Would they be able to keep the SFP?”

Mr Woolford is familiar with completing IACS forms, but he now grows more maize than he did in previous years. This means he will now have to set aside land for the first time.

Mike Butcher, an independent consultant in the north-east, has three main problems with the form. “DEFRA has only now confirmed that farmers need to set aside 8% of the claimed area, not 8% of the whole field.”

Mr Butcher is also worried that nowhere on the form are farmers asked to physically show calculations for the area of set-aside.

Some area measurement guidelines are also unclear, he says. “There are no absolutely clear and unequivocal guidelines on how to complete this form – that is what we needed. For the first year of the new system, they should have been much clearer.”