DEFRA HAS announced the introduction of monthly rather than quarterly start dates for the entry level scheme to ease ongoing application problems.
Junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach told FARMERS WEEKLY on Fri (Jun 17) that montly agreement start dates would be the new policy.
The development has emerged after NFU president Tim Bennett claimed, during a speech at the Cereals Event on Wednesday (June 15), that DEFRA risked a “breach of contract” over the ELS.
He pointed out that there was the ludicrous situation where many farmers still could not apply because the Rural Development Service could not supply the application maps needed.
The technical problems that have caused difficulties with applications have occurred both at the RDS and within the Rural Payments Agency.
But the RPA has told FW that it has 200 people working on the issue, when it usually only has 20-30 on a part-time basis.
Bill Duncan, head of the RPA’s Central Scheme Management Unit, acknowledged that the agency was facing a significant workload, as it had more than 30,000 IACS 22s to process and another 15,000 new land registration requests. In a normal year the RPA processes 7000-9000 IACS 22 forms.
“It is a heavy workload to get through, but we are focused on doing it,” said Mr Duncan. “We did have technical issues which have been investigated and have largely been resolved. We are trying to prioritise those maps needed for ELS purposes.”