Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Moves to make registration simpler

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been reformed yet again and at midnight on 31st December 2014 it was out with the old as the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) ceased and in with the new as the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) was introduced. This is the mechanism through which farmers will receive support payments via the EU.

The new scheme is also meant to be at the forefront of the Government’s drive for “digital by default”, the idea being that in the first instance every farmer was meant to be able to verify their identity online. But in reality it appears the BPS has come too soon for this online verification process, causing frustration to the farmers who have been invited to register so far.

This must be a big headache to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) which is tasked with implementing the BPS. Therefore the RPA has decided to open up its helpline to allow farmers to verify their identity over the telephone which will then enable the RPA to allow farmers to access their online BPS system.

Having now done this myself with a few clients I am pleased to report that the telephone verification system appears to be working well and is reasonably easy to negotiate although whether the RPA will be able to cope with the volume of calls that are now likely to flood in over the coming weeks remains to be seen.

However, for those without a computer, they either need to liaise with their agent to see if they can register online via them or visit one of the assistance centres which DEFRA is setting up across England where farmers will be able to go to an RPA office to complete the process under guidance.

Once farmers have accessed the RPA’s online BPS system they need to check their business details are correct, that the appropriate people are registered against the business, and that the plans of their land are up to date. At present there is not much else that can be done online but with only four months to go until the application deadline there is clearly still a lot of work to be done to ensure the system becomes functional in time for farmers to be able to make their claim.

Memories of the disastrous implementation of the SPS back in 2005 are etched into the memory of many a farmer and thus there is nervousness that the faltering start to the online identity verification process may be a prelude of much worse to come. However, I do hope that this time the RPA will have learnt from the mistakes of the past.

The fact that they have organised a telephone identity verification system at relatively short notice is to be commended and I just hope the RPA’s new BPS software will be similarly user friendly.

James Stephen

James Stephen


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...

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