RPA minefield for Bical energy crop growers

Farmers growing energy crops for Bical – which went into administration in late November 2009 – have been issued guidance from the Rural Payments Agency about how it will affect their Aid for Energy Crops payments.

A group of private investors stepped forward quickly to acquire the troubled company from administrator Milsted Langdon within days of the appointment. The new company, Renewable Energy Crops, also acquired Bical grower groups BiSel and BiEd which were not part of the administration.

However, the rules are complicated – and farmers who do not make clear to the RPA their current position could forfeit their AEC payments or incur penalties.

Farmers Weekly has tried to make sense of the latest guidance, but will be seeking further clarification from the RPA.

If your contract was with one of Bical’s four subsidiary companies:

Farmers who sent the RPA copies of their contracts with one of these subsidiaries – which also include BiCep and BiEcc – and whose contract remains in place, should receive their 2009 AEC payemnts with their single farm payment. However, there are hoops to jump through.

Effectively, they must deliver the 2009 crop and get a receipt for it. RPA says farmers must demonstrate that they deliver the 2009 harvest and complete form ENC9 (the delivery declaration) and send it to the RPA. This must also be signed by a representative of the former Bical subsidiary.

If you weren’t due to harvest energy crops this year, you still need to declare a nil harvest to the RPA. You don’t need a secondary signature from the company you’re contracted to, but you still need to let the RPA know – they won’t pay up without this.

You can find the relevant RPA forms here

If you decide to cancel your contract or withdraw your AEC claim:

Alternatively, farmers that cancel their contract can write to the RPA and withdraw their Aid for Energy Crops claim. To do this they must complete form ENC7, or write to the RPA with details of the crop area and contracts concerned. RPA sys it will process their single payments as normal.

However, there is a significant catch. If a farmer cancels their contract and withdraws their AEC claim, they cannot later reverse this decision.

Also, if they are awaiting an inspection for AEC, or have been told that a portion of their claimed area fails to qualify, they cannot withdraw their energy crops claim.

If this situation applies to you, contact the RPA: Write to Lisa Oddy, Aid for Energy Crops Manager, Rural Payments Agency, PO Box 1058, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE99 4YQ

If you’ve signed a new contract with another collector or renewable energy firm:

This is the bad news. FW understands that the RPA will not pay Aid for Energy Crops payments in this instance, despite the fact that the crop is still going for energy use. The RPA says that it “cannot accept any amendment to contracts so that a new company becomes the collector or first processor”.

If you fall into this category, you will need to tell the RPA as soon as possible. The statement from the RPA says: “If a grower does not tell us about the cancellation of the contract with Bical, or withdrawal of their Aid for Energy Crops claim, we may have to apply penalties to any Aid for Energy Crops claimed, and to future payments under SPS and related schemes.”

If this situation applies to you, contact the RPA: Write to Lisa Oddy, Aid for Energy Crops Manager, Rural Payments Agency, PO Box 1058, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE99 4YQ