The two-month application window for the 2021 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) has opened – and farmers in England are being urged to submit their claims early.
The application window for those with existing Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreements has also opened.
The Rural Payments Agency encouraged farmers and land managers to apply as soon as possible ahead of the 17 May deadline to avoid penalties.
Direct payments will be reduced, starting from this year (2021), with the money released being used to fund new grants and schemes to boost farmers’ productivity and reward environmental improvements.
Farmers who currently receive less than £30,000/year will see their payment cut by 5% this year, with the reduction increasing to 50% by 2024.
Bigger reductions will be made to the higher payment bands. Further reductions will be applied until the last payments are made in 2027.
The savings will free up funds to go back to farmers through the rollout of three schemes the government is developing to encourage environmental land management and to boost farmers’ productivity – the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery.
Defra is inviting expressions of interest from farmers for the SFI pilot scheme, with the first agreements due to go live in October.
Farm minister Victoria Prentis said: “We are undertaking the biggest change to agricultural policy in half a century, tailored to the needs of our farmers.
“I understand that some will be feeling anxious about the future.
“That is why we are making changes in a gradual way, and progressively reducing direct payments while we develop our new schemes.”
In Scotland, rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing also urged farmers to submit their BPS claims as soon as possible. No details were forthcoming from the Welsh government.