Mark GrimshawMark Grimshaw ©Tom Harford Thompson

Farmers are being urged to register for the new Basic Payment Scheme as soon as they are invited to do so – and amend any finer details later.

Up to 100,000 applicants are expected to apply for farm support payments under the new scheme, which replaces the Single Payment Scheme.

But the volume of farmers and requirement to do so by 15 May has prompted concern the deadline could be missed.

See also: BPS registration to open up to all farmers

Rural Payments Agency chief executive Mark Grimshaw (pictured) said the organisation had “set ourselves the interval challenge of having all people registered by the end of February”.

“There is still much to do and I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead of us. But the agency is leaner and more adaptable than ever before and our improved performance and capability will stand us in good stead over the coming months.”
Mark Grimshaw, RPA chief executive 

To help achieve this, the agency’s working week would be extended from five to seven days, he added.

“We will have 200 people to answer contact centre telephones by the end of this week – and more trained for next week,” Mr Grimshaw told an NFU Council meeting at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, on Tuesday (20 January).

“We have also brought the average call handling time down – so as long as our customers have all the information they need to answer the questions we will ask them around verifying their identity, we can get through [the registration process] quite quickly.”

Broadband and computer literacy were a challenge, which was why the agency had set up 50 digital support centres to help farmers having difficulties registering online.

“They are ready to go – we have already resourced them,” said Mr Grimshaw. “We just need the customers to turn up.”

More features would be added to the agency website over the next few weeks and months. The agency had already made it easier for applicants to check their maps online, said Mr Grimshaw. Hopefully, from early February, applicants would be able to amend maps on the system too.

Farmers should revisit the website regularly to check what new functionality had been released.

“We will continue to prompt you to complete further parts of your claim, as and when those service elements become available,” said Mr Grimshaw.

He added: “There is still much to do and I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead of us. But the agency is leaner and more adaptable than ever before and our improved performance and capability will stand us in good stead over the coming months.”

You can register online here


Telephone helpline given thumbs up

The telephone helpline set up to enable farmers to register for the online Basic Payment Scheme is getting the thumbs up from producers.

Emma Grieg, an independent land agent based in Leicestershire, said: “I’d 100% recommend doing it by phone. It will suit a lot of farmers as they are dealing with someone over the phone rather than banging their head on a keyboard.

“It took me one-and-a-half hours to register online [as an agent] and I came out of the office swearing. But when I registered on the telephone I was able to look at my details within 20 minutes.”
Emma Grieg

“It took me one-and-a-half hours to register online [as an agent] and I came out of the office swearing. But when I registered on the telephone I was able to look at my details within 20 minutes.”

Lyell Fairlie of Stonedown Farm, West Tytherley, on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border, told Farmers Weekly he would recommend the telephone option, too.

“I spoke to a man who took me through a series of questions and then emailed me something, which I had to respond to within 12 hours.

“I’ve told my friends about it and at least two more of them have already phoned. I just hope the claim forms when they come through are just as simple.”

Writing on Farmers Weekly’s website, a reader called Graham said his experience of trying to register online with Experian as the verifying service was a “total waste of time”.

“Then I rang the RPA number and a really helpful agent took me through the registration process and the job was done in 10 minutes max.”

Farmers who need help registering should call the Rural Payments Agency helpline on 03000 200 301