A record number of English farmers and landowners submitted their 2016 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications online, the Rural Payments Agency has said.
More than 85,500 of an estimated 87,500 people eligible to apply for BPS submitted their claims before the 16 May deadline. Of these, more than 80% was completed online.
Applicants can still make certain amendments until midnight on 31 May without being penalised.
See also: MPs slam unacceptable delays by RPA
Some changes can still be made after this date and up to 10 June, but may be liable to a penalty.
Claims submitted during the penalty period – after the 16 May deadline – will incur a 1% fine for each working day they are late.
The RPA is urging anyone still planning to claim to do as soon as possible and before midnight on 10 June.
RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw said: “It is great news that the 2016 BPS has received the highest proportion of claims submitted online in any one year.
“We expect BPS 2016 to be easier for farmers and it already got off to a good start.
“I urge anyone still considering making a claim to go online and do it as quickly as possible so you don’t miss out.”
‘No excuse for late payments’
The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said there would be “no excuse” for farmers to receive late payments this time around.
TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “The TFA has warned the RPA that our members have a fixed expectation that it will meet the objective of paying 90% of 2016 claims in December.
“Those payments must be correct so we will not have to deal with such a large number of post-payment adjustments as we have seen for the 2015 scheme year.”
Meanwhile, Mr Dunn said the RPA still had a substantial amount of unfinished business from BPS 2015 to address with urgency.
This includes the need for corrections to claims where individuals have received less than their entitlement, issues with entitlement transfers and mapping and looking into why some people have received no payment at all.
Ongoing mapping work carried out remotely by the RPA is also causing concerns for many TFA members.
Detailed support available until 10 June 2016
Online support centres
Until 10 June, five online support centres across England are open to help farmers – located in Reading, Newcastle, Workington, Carlisle and Exeter. Check online for full opening hours of your local centre.
Rural Services helpline
The Rural Services helpline 03000 200 301 is open weekdays between 8.30am to 5pm for help and advice.
Videos and on screen help
A range of helpful videos and documents designed to make the application process as easy as possible can be found on the Gov.uk website.
There’s also a new video available to help applicants make certain amendments until midnight on 31 May without being penalised as well as a ‘Hints and Tips’ video on the RPA YouTube channel.