Contractor using a quad bike to map soil types© Tim Scrivener

The NFU has said it continues to see an “unacceptable” level of mapping errors as farmers attempt to fill out their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application forms ahead of the 15 May deadline.

It became clear two weeks ago that mapping problems are worse this year than usual, requiring farmers and agents to spend time adding back ineligible features that they had previously recorded onto the Rural Payments Agency’s (RPA) mapping system.

The problems appear to have occurred where the RPA has updated its maps using satellite imagery, which have failed to distinguish between different features on the ground. 

See also: Farmers’ valuable time wasted after BPS maps botch

In a blog post on the union’s website, senior BPS adviser Richard Wordsworth warned that he was seeing more map problems come to the fore.

“What we are seeing at this time from a number of members is an unacceptable level of discrepancy, and members have been left very frustrated to see their farm depicted in a more inaccurate way than in the past, especially after the time and effort to get mapping correct in the recent past,” he said.

“In many cases, nothing has changed on the ground.”

Mr Wordsworth said the union was raising example cases with the RPA to help it understand what was happening.

“We’ve also asked for a thorough review of the mapping processes so to improve the situation that many find themselves in.”

Repeat checks

The union has also warned that it has received reports that the BPS online 2017 application system is, in some situations, defaulting, apparently randomly, to select fields and not activate them.

If not activated, field areas will not be used to claim on entitlements and therefore this could trigger a lower payment than expected.

The union is warning farmers that they should be able to pick up the issue by reviewing their claim post-editing, but pre-submission, using the PDF summary version of the application.

“This should pick up this issue – by comparing the line and total claim data with other farm records a correction can be made before it is too late.”

BPS Watch – keeping tabs on payments

Ongoing delays in 2015 support payments caused huge cashflow problems, stress and anxiety for thousands of farmers.

That is why Farmers Weekly has launched “BPS Watch”, designed to hold Defra and the Rural Payments Agency to account for their promises.

Our initiative – which will also cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – will focus on farmers and feature regular stories and payment updates, as we strive to keep government departments and agencies on track.