THE NFU is warning producers in England they will have just 28 days to check forms relating to their single farm payment entitlements.

The union said that on Jul 9 it expects the Rural Payments Agency to start sending out letters setting out farmers‘ historic receipts during the 2000-2002 reference period.

The same process will also take place in Wales, but to a different timetable.

Martin Haworth, NFU policy director, told NFU Council on Mon (Jun 28) that it was an awkward time for producers, but they must try to check the forms quickly so they could be returned, if necessary, on time.

“I think it is our duty to make sure that as many people do it within that timetable,” he said.

But Mr Haworth also pointed out that some producers would not get a letter, as they would only go to those who made a claim for subsidy during the reference period.

“Pure dairy farmers won‘t get one, unless they claimed slaughter premium,” he said.

To help its members, council delegates were told, the NFU‘s call centre, regional staff and some group secretaries will receive special training so they can assist farmers.

Guidance notes will be available on-line and NFU regional directors will set up special meetings where farmers can get their questions answered.

But non-members of the union will be forced to look elsewhere for help.

NFU livestock board chairman Richard Haddock said the union should get tough and make sure meetings were closed except to members.

“We’ve given far too much away as a union,” he said.

Mr Haddock said he was seriously concerned about the 28-day deadline. “The post from Exeter to my farm is taking five days at the moment,” he pointed out.

But the union‘s director general Richard Macdonald said that asking for more time would lead to other difficulties.

“Quite clearly we want more time, but if DEFRA slips on this then we will see the payments slipping backwards too. We are in a no-win situation,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the RPA said forms would need to be returned only if a producer was not happy with the figures provided and wished to make a representation.

If they were happy, then they needed to take no further action, she said.