The NFU is putting pressure on the RPA to issue pre-populated paper-based applications for the Basic Payment Scheme as soon as possible in April.
It is also demanding the agency issues clear and comprehensive guidance notes to assist farmers complete the form accurately.
Richard Wordsworth, NFU senior BPS adviser, said the RPA did release some guidance notes when it published a blank BP5 form on its website on 23 March. However, more in-depth guidance was needed by farmers if they were to have the best possible chance of getting the forms right.
“We want the same level of guidance that was presented to farmers under the Single Payment Scheme to help people fill out this new form,” he said.
“Farmers are waiting to engage with the revised process – but time is ticking by. They need full guidance and pre-populated forms, so they can get them completed and returned well ahead of the new 15 June deadline.”
While the paper form would be familiar to anyone who had completed one in the past, said Mr Wordsworth, the new greening rules added a layer of complexity. Land data would also be presented in a different way.
Another concern about the paper form was that it did not include a section to prompt the applicant to check whether they meet all the rules on Ecological Focus Areas or crop diversification. This is in contrast to an online system which would have automatically checked whether you met the 5% EFA requirement, said Mr Wordsworth.
“We need a process to highlight to people that they only have 4.7% EFA because they hadn’t perhaps realised that temporary grass counts as an arable crop.” In the absence of suitable check boxes on the form to help do this, they needed to be in the guidance notes, he said.
Mr Wordsworth said while the deadline had been extended to 15 June, it was important that farmers started to prepare their claims as soon as possible.
“While we await the pre-populated forms, please prepare by reminding yourself of the rules. If you need to transfer entitlements or prepare supporting data for Active Farmer, National Reserve or the Young Farmer schemes you can do so now.”