Technologically challenged farmers are to be given help to make the switch to the new digital farm payments system.

The RPA said the online system, which is due to go live in England in early 2015, has been designed to be “as simple, affordable and effective as possible”.

However regional digital support centres will offer appointments for one-to-one sessions for farmers and landowners who need the most help to make the switch to the online Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

These centres are currently being trialled at Exeter, Penrith and Carlisle but the plan is to roll them out across England by early next year.

The ambition is to ensure that farmers are never more than 30 miles from such a support centre. Remaining locations will be announced in due course.

Farmers applying in 2015 for the new BPS, which replaces the current single payment scheme (SPS), will need to use the new Common Agricultural Policy Information Service.

Letters go out this week to 13,000 carefully selected customers whom RPA research has shown are most likely to be in need of help to get online.

The aim is to find out what stops them getting online and what help they may require to use the new online service.

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RPA chief Executive Mark Grimshaw said: “I know from talking to farmers, local MPs and industry experts that some farmers, especially those living in remote rural communities, have concerns about getting online to make BPS applications either through lack of technical knowhow or inability to access the internet.

“We want to reassure them that the RPA has carefully thought through, practical and effective solutions to overcoming these barriers to going online. We are in an excellent position to lead this drive towards digital with a track record of encouraging take-up of online applications for SPS.

“This year more than 70,000 claims were made online – up 27 per cent on 2013. That’s more than two-thirds of all applications.

“The first 13,000 customers being approached have always made paper claims for their SPS payments, do not use agents, have the required amount of land for BPS claims (5ha) and have no digital footprint with RPA, for example, email, unfinished online applications.”

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