I recently heard someone say with glee that they can now put their BPS books away for another year. That, to me, is the wrong attitude to take. Why? Well, there are a number of things you need to keep an eye on now and in the coming months. I've set these out below:
Last call on BPS 2017
Many think 15 May is the last date a BPS claim can be submitted or be amended but that is far from the truth. You can amend a BPS claim without penalty up to 31 May or up to 9 June, with a penalty. If a claim has not been submitted, the RPA will accept it until 9 June, but don’t hang about; there is a 1% per working day reduction for each day late after 15 May. To help you, we have more information on the rules in place here.
If you or someone you know posted a BP5 form or RLE1 form to the RPA, is there a receipt to show the RPA has the documents? The RPA does not issue receipts for other documents sent to them so if you wish to gain confirmation that the RPA has safely received some critical supporting documents, the only thing you can do is contact them and seek that confirmation.
One last check to ensure your claim is correct
Every year, a number of claims are submitted incorrectly which can lead to reductions or penalties. This year, we have seen a worrying situation arise where activated land on the online system has been 'unpicked'. So please do double check the online claim submitted and take action. More information can be found in the RPA’s 2017 Hints and Tips document found here (on pages 18 and 19). If you need to amend and re-submit an online claim please follow the instructions of page 20 of this aforementioned guide to avoid a late application penalty. Remember BPS is not just about 15 May, keep your claim under review for the remainder of the year
It is a little known fact that all of the agricultural land farmers use to claim for BPS must be used primarily for an agricultural activity for the whole calendar year, not just at 15 May. If agricultural and non-agricultural activities are taking place on the same land, the land won’t be eligible if the intensity, nature, duration, and timing of the non-agricultural activity significantly interferes with the agricultural activity.
It is therefore key to consider activity in the coming months such as farm infrastructure developments – a new shed or track, introduction of activity such as areas of rail, road or pole or pipe infrastructure installations, or land coming out of agricultural use, such as land sold off to a neighbour to extend their garden.
If needed, it is possible to withdraw all or part of an application without penalty at any time after submission unless you have already been told about any non-compliance in the application, an inspection has revealed any non-compliance in the application or you have received advance warning of an inspection. So please keep your claim under review.
Remember greening and cross compliance
There are various greening dates when crops or EFA options need to be present, so we have put together an easy guide for you to refer to.
In terms of cross compliance, one issue I would pick out at this time is our guide to the hedge-cutting restrictions in place. We continue to raise concerns over the impact of the extended ban, but for BPS 2017 the rules remain as earlier years. What the NFU has achieved in the past is the derogation to allow farmers to trim certain hedges where oilseed rape or temporary grass is being sown in August. Our guide can be found here.
My key message at this time is as you are finalising your 2018 cropping get your derogation request in early to avoid any delays in receiving the go ahead from the RPA. It can take three weeks to process the derogation request, so get it in early to help you and the RPA make sure it happens.
BPS 2015 and 2016 issues
The NFU continues to raise member’s payment concerns via regular weekly dialogue with the RPA. This includes outstanding 2015 and 2016 issues, retrospective changes to common land based payments and updating of mapping.
At the moment we are seeing some of the long standing 2015 payment errors being rectified and correction work impacting on BPS 2016 claims too, This is encouraging. We are also seeing bridging payments being topped up. While this work is far from complete, there is a sense that the RPA are putting resource into dealing with these issues, something the NFU has long called for. We will continue to work with the RPA and members to get these issues resolved.
As a reminder, when a bridging payment is topped up or a full 2015/16 payment has been corrected, then the RPA will issue a revised claim statement for the years in question. Where the RPA has completed its correction work, they will also write to the farmer to draw a line under their activity, so everyone knows where they stand. For more information on BPS 2015 and 2016 payments and how they are calculated please have a look at these two RPA web pages for BPS 2015 and 2016.
If you need further assistance on BPS, greening or cross compliance, please call NFU Callfirst on 0370 845 8458.