Farmer Focus: Basic Payment Scheme troubles

An unexpected Christmas present came from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on Christmas Eve, which was the best result for us during the ten-year life of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

The problems besetting the registration process around the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) makes one yearn for the days of the SPS, which most of us would agree finally worked in the end.

See also: Sugar beet is the crop of the year

In the last year of the SPS, 35-40% of applications were completed by agents and with the advent of the BPS, this figure is likely to increase sharply.

I have been told that to complete an application you need to be “competent” on the computer and have a good broadband connection.

While there are people around me to help with the computer, being at the furthest point from the phone exchange means our broadband connection is ‘intermittent’  and regularly drops off.

However, this is a lot better than colleagues farming in the remoter areas of the country who have no broadband at all.

Even the most ardent “techies” have given up on the online process and have resorted to phoning the RPA in an attempt to get registered.

I spoke to one agent this morning who told me he had spent most of the previous afternoon on the phone trying to get himself registered.

The next stage will be maps and those who have already had a preview of these tell me of missing parcels and a mass of red ink marking boundaries, making  land features undistinguishable on the maps.  A repeat of the 2005 single farm payment fiasco? I hope not.

Out on the farm most of our time is spent with the stock. Early lambing has been completed, with ewes and lambs about to be turned out on to stubble turnips.

We will start drawing store lambs next week and housing our main lambing flock so we can clear fields for the spring drilling campaign.

Many thanks to all those readers who enquired about my performance on the keyboards at the local carol service, it was a task not helped by the fact that the Kettering number 8 player had stood on my hand in the bottom of a ruck the previous afternoon!

Robert Law, 2006 Farmers Weekly Farmer of the year, farms 1,500ha on the Hertfordshire/Essex/Cambridgeshire borders growing cereals, turnips, mustard, forage rape for seed and sugar beet, plus 300ha of grassland supporting a flock of 2,500 ewes. He also manages 500ha of Nottinghamshire sandland.