BPS confusion leaves many farmers feeling vulnerable
As the deadline for submission of 2016 Basic Payment Scheme applications has passed it has become clear that although the new online application system has been reasonably effective where all the field information is correct, there are significant problems where errors have occurred in relation to last year’s claim. As a consequence some farmers are yet to receive any payments from 2015 and many of those who have received payments have received the wrong sum.
The majority of problems seem to be because land parcels do not appear to have been properly connected to the farmers who claimed against them in 2015. This may be because the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has not yet processed the many land changes notified to them almost a year ago.
The result is some farmers have had to submit this year’s claim based on information that was submitted last year but which has not been updated on the RPA’s online mapping system. Further, in these circumstances many farmers have to submit their claim partly online and partly in paper where the land is not shown properly on the digital plans. This leaves many farmers feeling vulnerable to problems that may arise.
It is also clear that a lot of errors have occurred in relation to the number of BPS entitlements held by farmers. The idea is that to make a successful claim a farmer needs to match one entitlement with one hectare of eligible land. However, my experience is that following last year’s claim a significant minority of farmers have found that the number of entitlements they have been paid on is less than the number of hectares they declared in 2015 and in turn the number of entitlements carried forward in to 2016 has been similarly reduced.
This is a “double whammy” in that these farmers have not only had their 2015 claim reduced but also they are in danger of being paid less going forward in 2016 and beyond unless the original problem can be rectified.
These are just some of the many examples of problems and glitches which have occurred in the new online system for which one can obtain no logical explanation from the RPA. As a consequence I fear they now have their work cut out to sort out the many problems that remain from 2015 before the 2016 payment window opens on 1st December, worryingly close already for those in the RPA responsible for making the BPS system work.
James is a partner who heads up Carter Jonas’ South West rural operation, managing the teams in the four offices of Marlborough, Bath, Taunton and Truro. He primarily works out of the Taun...