With farm support scheme application and claim windows currently open, the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are inevitably having an impact on farmers filing their applications.
Alice De Soer at the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) gives advice on how to maintain contact with the paying agencies during this rapidly evolving situation.
Stay up to date
The latest guidance on coronavirus and farm support schemes is available on government websites:
Contacting paying agencies
Most paying agency offices are closed, with staff working remotely.
The RPA helpline and Rural Payments Wales (RPW) customer contact centre are still operating.
Scottish area offices are operating an answerphone machine service for staff to return calls. There are no face-to-face appointments.
All 2020 application and claim deadlines are being kept under review and may change. However, the current position is:
Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications:
- England/Scotland: 15 May
- Wales: extended to 15 June
BPS entitlements transfers effective for 2020:
- England: 15 May
- Wales: extended to 15 May
- Scotland: closed on 2 April
Other 2020 application and claim deadlines for England are:
- Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) annual revenue claims: 15 May
- CS Higher Tier applications: 1 May
- CS Hedgerows and Boundaries capital grant applications: 1 May
- CS Mid Tier: 31 July
Anyone experiencing difficulties meeting these deadlines because of coronavirus should let the relevant paying agency know.
Online and email services
Wherever possible, use online and pre-existing email services to submit applications, claims and supporting documents.
England differs from Wales and Scotland in that there is not a Single Application Form (SAF).
Some elements are online and others via email, but certain documents still need to be posted. Further guidance on English applications and claims is given below.
In Wales, submit all applications, claims and supporting documents via RPW Online.
Scotland is encouraging online applications but paper SAFs can be posted to Scottish area offices.
Submitting applications and claims in England
Most RPA offices are closed so documents should not be posted or hand-delivered to them. Drop-in centres will not be opening, but alternative arrangements are being worked on.
The Rural Payments service can be used to:
- Transfer BPS entitlements.
- Transfer land – if it shows as 100% owned. If it doesn’t, use the Change land tenure form to request an update.
- Submit BPS 2020 applications – phone the RPA to switch a paper BP5 form to online.
- Submit CS 2020 annual revenue claims.
- Apply for CS Mid Tier, Wildlife Offers and Hedgerows and Boundaries capital grants.
Use Email – Existing services for emailing the RPA from a registered email address include:
- Add land – to request that a land parcel is linked to a Single Business Identifier. Email by 5 May for BPS 2020 applications. Guidance on this process is available on the gov website.
- CS 2020 annual revenue claims – if this can’t be completed online, blank paper forms can be printed from the website . Scan (or photograph) the completed form and use “Countryside Stewardship 2020 Revenue Claim” as the email subject heading.
- ES 2020 annual revenue claims: Scan the completed form and email it. Use “Environmental Stewardship claim form 2020” as the email subject heading.
- CS Higher Tier and Mid Tier applications. If it is not possible to apply online for Hedgerows and Boundaries capital grants, there is a blank application form online which can be emailed to the RPA.
If there is not an existing online or email route, or you don’t have access to the internet, documents should still be posted, but only to the RPA’s PO Box addresses, not RPA offices.
For BPS, this includes RLE1 forms, BPS continuation booklets, paper BP5 forms, young and new farmer forms/certificates, and organic certificates.
If you can not post documents, keep hold of them and further guidance will be issued by the RPA shortly on what to do.