MPs have launched an inquiry into broadband coverage in rural areas and how it will impact the new digital-only CAP scheme.
From January 2015, all applications for the new CAP schemes will have to be made online.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has committed to providing a “range of additional support” for customers who can’t get online, don’t have access to a computer or don’t have the necessary skills to use one.
The government aims to provide universal access to standard broadband with a speed of at least 2Mbps and to ensure superfast broadband is available to 95% of UK premises by 2017.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is responsible for managing the Rural Broadband Programme. However, many farmers are still suffering from woefully inadequate internet access and the project has not yet reached many rural areas across the UK.
The inquiry, by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee, is open for submissions until 19 November , will examine the current broadband coverage in rural areas and the new digital-only services. It will also look at the “Assisted Digital” support being offered by the government.
Sarah Lee, head of policy for the Countryside Alliance, said: “From January 2015 the UK’s 100,000-plus farmers will be asked to make their Basic Payment Scheme [replaces Single Farm Payment Scheme] application online.
“However about 20,000 of those currently have no access to the internet or do not have sufficient broadband speeds to be able to do that.
“The farming industry has been working closely with the government and the RPA to make sure no one is left behind, but we would like assurance from Defra that these 20,000 farmers will not be penalised for a lack of digital connectivity if they fail to apply for their Basic Payment Scheme by May 2015.”
Farmers Weekly reported last week that the RPA was coming under pressure to roll out the new CAP digital payments scheme more quickly .