As in previous years, the NFU's BPS team have pulled together everything you need to know about the rules and claims process for BPS 2021. This page is regularly being updated to guide you through the process.
Read our cross compliance 2021 reminder
Even though you have completed this year’s BPS application and filed it away, it’s important to remember that the cross compliance rules apply all year round. Make sure you read our update on what the changes for cross compliance in 2021 were.
Changes to inspections
One of the changes brought in this year is regarding inspections. The RPA will now focus more on the risk of the impact on the environment, when selecting who to inspect.
The RPA will inspect fewer farms likely to have low level non-compliance, though random inspections will still be carried out. Prior to an inspection, the RPA will send you a list of records that will be checked at the inspection, therefore giving you the opportunity to get the paperwork ready for the day and make the inspection go more smoothly and swiftly.
At the inspection, relevant guidance will be pointed out if the inspector feels this would help you to meet the rules. If an inspector finds any breaches of the rules, consideration will be taken how severe this is by taking into account any mitigating circumstances. You may also be asked detailed questions about how you’ve engaged with the rules. This will help RPA identify where a penalty could be reduced signposting to information and support. It is therefore really important to consider what you say to an inspector during an inspection, as that may be used against you in determining the outcome of the inspection when sanctions are considered.
COVID-19 secure inspections
We’ve had feedback from members that inspectors are carrying out inspections in a COVID-19 secure manner, which seems to be working well. If you do have concerns, please raise these with the inspector when they make first contact with you. Although, do remember that if you refuse an inspection, it can lead to your BPS payment and agri-environment payments being withdrawn.
Later in the year we will be asking for feedback on how 2021 cross compliance have gone, so please watch out for more on this.
Remember to contact NFU CallFirst (0370 8458458) if you are uncertain of cross compliance rules - the team will be happy to talk you through them.
Final reminders and a future checklist
Now that the 17 May 2021 deadline has passed, there is very limited scope to make changes if a mistake has been made.
If you have not already done so, we urge you to do one final check of your BPS 2021 information, to ensure all is in order.
Here are some points to consider:
Keep copies of all documents sent to the RPA
Make sure you have ‘carbon copies’ of everything sent to the RPA, in case the RPA seeks any clarification on an element of the claim. For online BPS claimants, this can be a hard copy or a copy saved to your computer, showing the date and time of submission.
Remember what receipts you may get
If you have posted documents to the RPA, follow the RPA guidance on what receipts should have been received. Make sure you chase the RPA if a receipt does not arrive. The RPA has a handy document on gov.uk which shows which documents you can expect to receive a receipt for.
Has the RPA received your online claim?
In terms of receipts, for online claims there are four ways to see if a claim has been successfully submitted:
- Immediately after submission, an online notification should have popped up, confirming that the application has been submitted.
- There will be a message in the ‘Your businesses and messages’ tab that shows it has been submitted.
- When you check the status of your application, the status should show as ‘submitted’.
- Finally, after submitting the claim, you should have generated and downloaded the final PDF summary of your application. This will show the document has been submitted and the time and date of submission.
What if I need to make an amendment?
After midnight on 11 June 2021, there is very limited scope to make changes to an application. Providing you haven’t been told of non-compliance in your application or received advanced warning of an inspection, you may still be able to notify the RPA of an error in your application. This is allowed under the notified and obvious error provisions. This is explained in more detail in our amending your BPS application briefing, below.
Remember that BPS is not just important in the spring, there are things that you need to consider in the coming months. Below is a quick round up.
Keep your BPS claim under review
It is vital you keep your claim under review to avoid a penalty being applied to your payment. It’s important to remember that the agricultural land you claim BPS on must be used primarily for an agricultural activity for the whole calendar year and not just 17 May when you claimed.
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 any activity that takes place on that land throughout the year which may make the land ineligible for BPS. Such activities could include infrastructure works (new roads, building etc.) or land sold to be used as a garden for example.
If required, it is possible to withdraw part of a BPS application without penalty at any time, unless:
- You have already been told about any non-compliance in the application
- An inspection has revealed any non-compliance in the application
- You have received advance warning of an inspection
For those impacted by the development of HS2, we have put together a briefing covering HS2 and BPS.
Cross compliance and rights of way
Given the recent increased use of access routes in the countryside, it’s important that you are adhering to the rules on public rights of way (PROW) under cross compliance GAEC 7b. This standard requires you to keep public rights of way open and accessible and paths need to be reinstated to the correct width after cultivation. More information on public rights of way and BPS can be found here. With the increased public use of the countryside, some farmers are offering their land to be used for car parking. We’ve put together a briefing highlighting the key points to be aware of when offering land to be used as car parking, available here.
Field boundary management
Remember, if you wish to trim hedges in August ahead of sowing oilseed rape or temporary grass in August, you first need to obtain a derogation from the RPA. Read our briefing on how to apply for a derogation. If you are thinking of trimming other field boundary features, such as grass strips or watercourse banks, make sure you know what the rules are before going ahead.Read our briefing to find out more. A briefing covering these issues will be available soon in our BPS news channel on NFUonline. If you are unsure, contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.
Useful RPA resources
As always, the RPA has a range of information for claimants this year. You'll find these on Gov.uk - use the links below to navigate to them.
- BPS 2021 government scheme information page.
- Rural payments land guidance - find information on land, different land uses, such as common land, woodland and what might be claimable. Plus, there's the new RLE1 form and associated guidance on how it can be emailed to the RPA.
- Ways to submit rural payments. Knowing how to submit the information is key, so the NFU has worked with the RPA to produce a handy reference grid.
- Latest information and impacts of COVID-19 on the 2021 claims process. Find information on the RPA helpline opening hours and a reminder that there are no drop-in centres open this year.
- RPA key scheme dates.
NFU members: If you need help, NFU Callfirst (0370 845 8458) will offer guidance on any BPS questions you have.
It is important to bear in mind that BPS, cross compliance and the young farmer scheme will operate again this year. As with previous years, BPS will operate for the full calendar year (1 January to 31 December 2021). Those who have claimed BPS for 2021 will be required to comply with the BPS requirements for the entire year, despite the plans to start to reduce payments and the development of other schemes. There will continue to be inspections across BPS, be that for eligibility or cross compliance elements, this year.
Where can I find out more about the changes in 2021?
The NFU has pulled together the key points around policy and rule changes, along with administration issues to be aware of.
These documents provide information on:
- The removal of greening
- The removal of cross border claim status
- Issues such as how and when claim forms will be issued
- Where to find scheme guidance
- How to submit claims and associated documents to the RPA