Opinion: Digital CAP mapping is a boon for farmers

Tech-savvy farmers will be pleased to learn that DEFRA is making good progress on its CAP digital mapping service, which should make it easier to understand and apply for payments.

Let’s face it, any system that attempts to simplify by bringing together the processes managed by four unwieldy organisations such as DEFRA, the RPA, Natural England and the Forestry Commission, has to be encouraged.

See also: Video: Digital mapping for CAP 2015 unveiled

The plan is for a major redesign of the whole CAP process to create one integrated approach. It will prevent fines or disallowances for making payments that don’t comply with complicated CAP rules and it gives farmers and landowners greater flexibility and security to allow others to edit maps on their behalf. One major change is every customer will be registered with a unique reference number, which can used by anyone acting for you such as an agent, someone from your family or an employee.

“The good news is that DEFRA seems to have learned from past mistakes and is adopting a phased implementation so hopefully no more disasters like the SFP system of 2005.”
Jane King, editor

Be reassured by the fact that many farmers have been involved in testing the new system and therefore any issues or bugs should be resolved before it is rolled out. The good news is that DEFRA seems to have learned from past mistakes and is adopting a phased implementation so hopefully no more disasters like the SFP system of 2005. The kick-off date is planned for January next year when the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is introduced in England.

The whole project is costing more than £76m, which equates to £727 for each of the 105,000 rural support transactions every year – a figure government probably considers delivers efficiency compared with before.

Building a new service in line with ever-changing CAP regulations cannot be easy but it has to be worth doing if it starts to reduce the mountain of paperwork farmers have to handle and speeds up CAP claims and payments.

The one fly in the ointment is poor broadband access in some areas, but even that is improving. It’s clear farmers see the benefits of SFP funding online as more than half of claims are now managed this way. It is much quicker, common errors can be corrected before the application is submitted, you will be able to update throughout the year and you get instant recognition that it has been received by the RPA. Even better, the system saves information for the following year so it cuts out duplication of effort.

Farmers need digital services that are so good that everyone who can use them definitely chooses to do so. That way the industry can truly say it is really making the most of technology.

Jane King

Editor

 

See more