It’s that time of year again. Application forms and guidance notes for the 2007 single farm payment should have landed on doormats throughout the land and farmers have until 15 May to get them back, or face penalties.
The first thing a farmer should do – and yes, it is obvious – is check that the business details are right on the front of the form. Closely inspect the Single Business Identifier and business name. If either is wrong, call up the Customer Service Centre(0845 603 7777) for advice.
“Claimants should not handwrite amendments on the front of the form,” said an RPA official. “We can’t capture any changes to business details from the front of the form.”
Farmers should also pay close attention to the payment preference specified on the front cover in part B. “If you chose to be paid in euros last year, you will automatically be paid in euros this year, unless you mark the change on your application form.”
Next, farmers should check the start date for the 10-month occupancy of the land in question. Pre-printed information will use the same start date as last year, rolled on 12 months. If that has changed and the end dates from 2006 overlap with the start dates for 2007, even for one field, this is likely to count as a “dual claim” and could trigger a penalty.
It is especially important to find out what the 10-month period was for new land taken on since last year’s claim.
One of the main changes for 2007 is that the Field Data Sheets have now been moved to the front of the application form. “This was due to customer feedback,” said the official. “Farmers often like to get this bit done first, so we have brought it forward.”
The bulk of these Field Data Sheets should be pre-populated with last year’s data – and the impression so far is that this information is much more accurate than in the past.
But care still needs to be taken to check the figures – especially where farmers have been involved in the transfer of entitlements and land which may not have all been registered with the RPA at the time the forms were printed.
“If the pre-printed data are correct, then you do not need to rewrite the text,” says the RPA.”But if parcels are missing, additional information should be included on the next available blank lines.”
Any written mistakes should be crossed out, initialled and dated. But if a whole line needs to be deleted – for example, if a field has been sold – farmers should simply enter an X in column C3. They should not strike through the whole line.
The RPA is also urging farmers to pay close attention to set-aside this year. “One area of concern is where a farmer put down a whole field as set-aside, SA1, last year, when in fact he should have split it SA1 and OT2. This leads to the pre-printed data showing the whole field as SA1 in columns C8 and C10. If this has happened to you, you will need to split fields into SA1 and OT2 and provide a sketch map.”
The 2007 SPS will be based 70% on the entitlement holder’s historic subsidy receipts and 30% as a flat-rate payment. The euro/sterling exchange rate to be used will be that prevailing on the last working day of September 2007. The aid for energy crops is set at €45/ha and for proteins at €55.57/ha.
But if there are entitlements missing – for example, if you have been involved in trading – you should also complete column E3 to specify the type of entitlement you want activated.
If you wish to claim Hill Farm Allowance, you should complete column C12 for each relevant land parcel, and answer question G4. And if you have common rights, you should complete part D of the form.
While all the forms sent out by the RPA should have been pre-populated, new applicants or farmers who need extra pages should contact the Customer Service Centre to get blank forms. “We will not be accepting non-RPA self-generated forms this year (as used by some agents and consultants in the past), as these are not compatible with our scanners.”
Last, the RPA is urging farmers to get their claims in as soon as possible. “One initiative we are introducing this year is to supply barcodes so farmers can attach them to future correspondence,” said the official. “But these are not ready yet and farmers should not wait for them to arrive before returning their forms.”
Returns so far
Of the 120,000 forms sent to known entitlement holders, 11,433 had been sent back by 5 April. Of these, 349 had to be returned due to mistakes.
Claimants who miss the 15 May deadline will be subject to penalties worth 1% of their SFP per working day late. Applications received after 9 June will be rejected.
AFTER YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE FORM