Opinion: Prepare now to avoid basic payment chaos

Are you ready for the new web-based Basic Payment Scheme? Do you understand the implications of greening for your claim in 2015? The answer for many farmers may well be no and, if that’s the case, do not delay in getting under the skin of it.

For any farmer, even those confident with technology, the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) which replaces the Single Payment Scheme in England presents big challenges.

As we have reported previously, from 2015 everyone will need to apply online if they want to claim the BPS. But what has now emerged is that this will be a completely new process and previous log-in details cannot be used. Whether we like or not, it means that every claimant in the country must enrol as if they were a newcomer. The RPA says registering shouldn’t take too long and once it has been done any previous information in the CAP system will be transferred across. However, everyone is advised to register as soon as possible once the online system opens around the end of August.

See also: Tips on planning for Basic Payment Scheme and greening rules

The RPA claims it has learned the lessons of the past and says it has gone to a lot of trouble to put farmers at the heart of the development of the service. Users have been testing the software for sometime and about 400 RPA staff are working on the delivery to ensure the problems incurred during the past round of botched CAP reforms in 2005 are not repeated. However, it is inevitable farmers will find the new system complicated.

“For farmers, getting to grips with the implications of greening will not be easy either. From a practical perspective there are still far too many unknowns.”Jane King, Farmers Weekly

For the first time, the RPA will be handling all transactions across the CAP schemes (Pillars 1 and 2). The transactional work of Natural England, the Forestry Commission and some elements of the Rural Development Programme for England will become the RPA’s responsibility. No wonder it admits that “the coming year will be extremely challenging as we prepare our people, customers and systems for major reform”.

It certainly has a lot of work to do. All current entitlements will be rolled forward into the BPS but there are big changes that have to be considered. Remapping, for example, will be necessary as ineligible features have to be mapped in future. Payment areas are being adjusted and the non-severely disadvantaged areas (lowland) and severely disadvantaged areas will be combined into one.

For farmers, getting to grips with the implications of greening will not be easy either. From a practical perspective there are still far too many unknowns.

For example, questions still remain over additional restrictions on buffer strip widths; the definition of a winter or spring crop, of an active farmer and even exactly what is and isn’t a watercourse. Over the coming weeks, Farmers Weekly will bring a series of “CAP unravelled” updates to help address some of these issues. The first appears in this week’s Arable section (p44).

It all adds up to yet more administration worries for farmers, particularly those less comfortable with paperwork and computers. As you would expect, there are plenty of land agents and consultants ready to help for a fee and lots of workshops organised around the country to provide essential practical help.

This could be one situation where it will probably pay to get ahead of the game and seek guidance as soon as possible. It’s a strength to seek advice, not a weakness, and the cost will more than pay for itself if your claim goes smoothly and is trouble-free.

Jane King


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