There’s just one week left to get this year’s single payment application forms to the Rural Payments Agency. If you’re still rushing to complete the paperwork, slow down. A little care now will be worth it later on, as Ian Ashbridge finds out
Four years into the single payment regime and its easy to think the paperwork is simply routine. But there are still pitfalls farmers need to watch out for, says farm business consultant Adrian Cannon of Strutt & Parker.
“There are a few things that are new for this year, and a few more familiar things that it still pays to double check you’ve done correctly.”
Bank account and sort code
“If you’ve changed your bank account details during the year, you need to submit a CReg10 form, which you can get from the RPA website or through its local centres. This can easily be overlooked and while the RPA will not only be unable to pay you, they won’t necessarily notify you of this,” says Mr Cannon.
“Be aware of the cross-compliance issues that you will be bound to once you’ve signed that form. From this claim year, deductions (penalties) start at 3%, significantly greater than in previous years. Last year, 56% of people who did incur penalties paid just 1%.
“One of the most common cross-compliance transgressions we see is failure to ear-tag stock – mainly cattle but also sheep and goats. The next most regular is animal movement recording,” says Mr Cannon.
“Now is also a good time to do your Soil Protection Review as you are going around the farm, rather than leaving it until December when it falls due.”
Protein and energy crop payments
“Make sure, where protein and energy crop payments are being claimed, that you complete the C12 column on the SP5 form. But where there has been a bad autumn or poor crop establishment, ensure you make allowance for this in your claimed area. You can’t claim for something that it not growing there. Also, be sure to include energy contracts, signed, dated and submitted with the application.”
Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
“Some parts of the form will be pre-populated. But if your NVZ designation has changed, you may need to specify that all or part of your farm now falls within one of the new NVZs. This is Part D, Question 1D.”
Woodland & Forestry
“The RPA made a statement that woodland and forestry should be included on your SP5 form in four areas only: If it is being grazed, if there are fewer than 50 trees a hectare or that it is capable of being grazed, if it is in short rotation coppice, or if it has been claimed against under one of the Rural Development Programme for England woodland schemes. There are opportunities to claim for woodland under those circumstances, but it’s important to check eligibility first.”
SP5 continuation sheets
“If you need to add additional information, you must get proper continuation sheets from the RPA. They won’t accept photocopied pages of the SP5 form itself. It’s probably too late now to get them sent out to you, but you can collect them from the RPA drop-in centres.”
- Find your local drop-in centre at www.tiny.cc/rpadropin
Don’t forget to sign it
“This easiest mistake continues to be a serious issue. As well as making sure you send it with the correct postage, get proof of posting and make sure that it is identified on the Post Office receipt as a single payment application sent to the RPA. And don’t forget to keep a copy of the SP5 for your own records.”
Hundreds of farmers have been left waiting for single payments worth millions of euros to be finalised after transferring their entitlements.
About 300 producers who transferred entitlements as long ago as 2006 are awaiting corrections to payments.
In total, more than 16,000 farmers have transferred entitlements since they were first allowed to do so in 2006. They include about 2000 farmers who have transferred entitlements with an estimated valued of €22m for 2009.
Farm minister Jane Kennedy said: “There are approximately 300 farmers involved in transfers for 2006, 2007 and 2008 whose entitlements are still undergoing correction which may affect these figures.”
Ms Kennedy insisted it was not possible to estimate the exact number or monetary value of outstanding payments. Even though an entitlement had been transferred, a farmer receiving the entitlement might not have activated it on his SPS claim.
“An entitlement that has not been activated will not attract a payment for that scheme year,” she said. “Therefore, transfers of entitlements do not correlate directly into payments under the SPS.”
The figures were released by the RPA late last month after a parliamentary question from shadow farm minister Jim Paice.
“There is no doubt the RPA has upped its game after the government’s abysmal implementation of the Single Payment Scheme. However, there are still unresolved problems which are causing farmers real difficulty and these must be urgently addressed.”