Farming unions have warned of a last-minute rush for people trying to complete their CAP Basic Payment applications.
In Scotland, although the speed of the online application is improving, NFU Scotland is urging farmers “not to delay” in completing their applications.
Union leaders met with Scottish government officials on Tuesday (5 May) to highlight the need for a contingency plan if the current speed of the online system for submitting single application forms (SAFs) were to dip.
Feedback from farmers and agents has led the union to question whether the system will be able to cope with the level of online applications expected between now and the extended deadline of 15 June.
Speaking after the meeting, NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said: “Farmers and farm advisers have repeatedly complained about how slow the system operates and that it is difficult to use.
“The majority of SAF applications will be completed by farm advisers and they have been struggling to get through their workload because of the speed of the system.
“Several attempts have been made to improve the performance of the system and it appears that in the last few days the most recent attempts to improve performance have borne fruit. Reports we have had back from advisers and farmers is that the speed of the system has markedly improved.
“These speed improvements need to stick, especially as we expect an increase in the volume of SAF claims submitted in the coming weeks, if online SAF applications are to be submitted in enough numbers between now and the 15 June deadline.”
NFUS remains convinced that online applications should be the preferred route for completing CAP claims because it would ensure that payments could be made more timely.
Mr Bowie urged farmers not yet registered on the new Rural Payments and Services system to do so now and to start completing their SAF now. “The clock is now ticking, please don’t leave it too late,” he said.
South of the border, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) was continuing to issue paper forms to a number of farmers, according to the NFU’s senior adviser on the Rural Payments scheme, Richard Wordsworth.
This is contrary to earlier messages from the RPA that all claims forms should be on farm by 30 April, Mr Wordsworth said.
“Up to this week, no claim forms had been issued to those with common land. We expect these to be issued by the end of the week,” he added.
The NFU is also warning farmers to check their land data on the BP5 form amid reports that the pre-populated data may be different to that used for SPS 2014.
“Ensure all your land parcels are present and correct, make sure the areas claiming on and the eligible area for a field is right,” said Mr Wordsworth.
“There is no substitute to checking every line of field data early.”
* Farmers who are eligible for BPS claims who have not yet received their BP5 application forms, or their pack to update their RLR maps, should call the RPA helpline on 03000 200 301.