NFU continues urgent lobbying to clarify BPS ‘plan B’ for farmers

Farmers still need to focus on BPS applications by preparing information ahead of completion. The call from the NFU comes after farming minister George Eustice announced there would be an extension to the BPS application window to June 15.

Speaking after a week of meetings with the RPA, after they announced it would move to a paper-assisted scheme this year, NFU Vice President Guy Smith said while the new June 15 application date was a welcome and necessary part of the new Plan B for paper-assisted applications, farmers still needed to complete applications as quickly and as accurately as possible.

“My fear is that while this new date gives the applicant another month, at the same time it takes away a month from the RPA for applications to be processed and checked. This has clear implications for early payments as close to December 1 as possible. We will continue to work closely with the RPA to establish how the change in deadline to June 15 will affect our members. In the meantime, we would urge everyone to work with May 15 in mind until our questions and concerns have been addressed.

“It also makes sense for applicants to maximise the RPA’s processing and checking window by getting applications in by May 15. While an individual cannot fast-track their own claim by putting it in early, as a whole farmers can only help the process by getting in applications closer to May 15 rather than June 15. Those farmers and growers who managed to access and use the online mapping functions successfully will no doubt be relieved that George Eustace has said they will not have to go through the process again and that their information will not be lost. However, members tell us that the system lost inputted information during its repeated closed downed periods, so we are seeking urgent clarification on that and a number of other outstanding issues.These include how the drop in centres would work and assurances that the RPA has the resources to cope with the new paper assisted system.”

“The messages from Government certainly suggest they are taking our concerns seriously. There is still much to be done and areas that need to be bottomed out; such as how exactly the pre-populated forms will work in practice; and to how those farmers with simpler claims * who were fast-tracked through the system will be affected. For the latter, we need to ensure there is an efficient way of contacting them so they do not miss out on vital information. Some of these may have used email addresses that they access infrequently and to merely rely on email communications is not acceptable.”

Mr Smith said the NFU would continue to engage with industry stakeholders to identify possible problems and raise concerns, including at today’s meeting with the RPA and other parties.

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