Blog: The top five ways to prepare for an RPA inspection

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richard wordsworth, sps, bps rpa, nfu staff_170_22Our senior BPS adviser Richard Wordsworth sets out his top five tips on avoiding problems if an RPA inspector visits.

He writes:

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Number One_64_64Cross compliance: Hedge trimming

Generally hedges cannot be trimmed until 1st September under BPS rules. However, there are two main exceptions to this. Firstly if you wish to trim hedges in arable fields where oilseed rape / temporary grass is going to be sown in August, then please read our online guide, here. You will need to apply for a derogation to trim these hedges.

Secondly, there are a number of situations where hedges can be trimmed at this time, such as where a hedgerow overhangs a road or footpath over which there is a right of way and the overhanging hedgerow obstructs the passage of people. More details can be found in the 2015 cross compliance handbook here. Please know the rules before trimming any hedge. We know the RPA will be keeping an eye on the situation in the coming weeks.

Number Two_64_64Trimming grass margins and ditch banks

In most cases, there are fewer restrictions on cutting grass margins and ditch banks in August compared to hedges, but you need to think about any agri-environment scheme obligations or land designations in place. We have put together a short guide covering these various considerations. That can be found here.

3_64_64 Remember to establish greening, EFA catch crops or cover crops options

If you choose the cover / catch crop options in order to meet your 5% EFA obligation this year, then my message is if you are not using the undersown grass cover in the previous crop you need to establish the right mix in good time to comply with the rules set out in the 2015 BPS Handbook (page 41).

'Establish' in this context means that the catch or cover 'crop' is visible and of a density that will achieve ground cover. This is especially important given that the RPA will be inspecting a high proportion of these EFA areas from September onwards. The dates to be aware of are:

• To count as an EFA in 2015, catch crops must be established by 31 August 2015 and retained until at least 1 October 2015.

• To count as an EFA in 2015, cover crops must be established by 1 October 2015 and retained until at least 15 January 2016.

Number four, 4_64_64Cross Compliance: Field margins

Please ensure that where needed, one metre / two metre cross compliance field margins are in place and re-establish them if they are too narrow or not present. More information can be found in the 2015 cross compliance handbook.

Five_64_64Cross Compliance: Footpaths and bridleways

I understand there is a lot going on at this time of the year, but please remember to keep any rights of way on farm in good order, especially in arable situations. Reinstating routes across arable fields should be carried out in good time and not forgotten.