The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has bowed to pressure and relaxed the deadline for notifying it about any new permanent ineligible features (PIFs) on farm.
Farm leaders have been warning for weeks that the requirement to map individual PIFs is adding a huge burden to farmers as they try to complete their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application.
There is also concern about the amount of time it will take the RPA to process all the maps and RLE1 forms that will be generated as a result.
In a statement released on Tuesday (19 May) the agency said the deadline for recording PIFs that had not previously been mapped had been extended to 30 September 2015.
This means farmers can concentrate on submitting their BPS application to meet the 15 June deadline, it said.
However, the deadline for the RPA to receive BP5 application forms, and all RLE1s used for any purpose other than to notify the RPA of PIFs for BPS 2015, remains 15 June 2015.
Customer director Justin Chamberlain said: “The decision taken on permanent ineligible features is another example of the RPA acting on the feedback we have received from customers and stakeholders.
“Farmers now have more time to notify us of previously unmapped permanent ineligible features, but we would still urge them to submit these forms as soon as possible because we need to use this information to calculate claims before making payments.”
Responding to the news, the NFU said it still had serious concerns over the need for farmers to record previously unmapped PIFs in 2015.
It was an unnecessary additional form-filling exercise for farmers, which also placed an extra burden on the RPA in its attempts to ensure farmers were paid on time, it said.
NFU vice president Guy Smith added: “Despite this extension, the NFU is still disappointed that these RLE1 forms will need to be completed this year and be processed before claims can be fully validated and paid.”
To date the agency has received almost 20,000 of the 86,000 forms it is expecting.
It has also revealed that this week it will write to all farmers who have not yet applied to remind them not to delay making their application.
However, some farmers are pointing out that they have been unable to complete their claim because they are yet to be sent a BPS form in the first place.
New guidance notes
The agency has also published some updates to guidance given in the BPS 2015 handbook and the How to apply guide. This includes:
- Further information on grassland and agri-environment schemes
- Telling the RPA about land use
- Proving someone is a young farmer when they are in a partnership.
The guidance, which can be found with all the other information farmers need to apply for BPS in 2015, also features further details on ecological focus areas, including more examples of buffer strips.
Extra woodland advice
The RPA said a common topic farmers were asking about was land use codes for woodland. It said there isn’t a land use code for trees/woodland.
- If trees are “scattered”, and the agricultural activity can take place in the same way as if the trees were not there, the land use for that area beneath the trees should be recorded – so if it is permanent grassland, use PG01.
- If the area of trees/woodland is not eligible for BPS but is in an RDP agreement, it should be included in Part C using land use code RD02.
- If the area is eligible for BPS because it was used to claim SPS in 2008 and is still under an appropriate RDP option, use RD01.
- If the area is not eligible, is not in an RDP agreement, and is a separate parcel/not part of a larger parcel it should be excluded from the BP5.
- If it is part of larger parcel it should be coded NA01.