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.
Click on the links below to jump straight to the section you want to read:
BPS 2021 claim window is open
The BPS claim window for 2021 opened on 18 March. The deadline to avoid a late claim penalty is midnight on 17 May.
There have been a number of key changes from BPS 2020 to be aware of. You can find more information on this in the briefing documents below.
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 are intending to claim 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.
Applying for BPS 2021? Read our list of 10 reminders
NFU advisers Anna Logan and Richard Wordsworth have outlined key factors to be aware of this year.
This year, despite the continuing challenges of COVID 19, the claim window is short, so you need to get on and get your claim in.
Below are reminders of key things you should be aware of before you apply. For those of you who have applied already, it can be used as a checklist to cross reference.
1. Read the rules and understand what has changed
With all the post-CAP changes and new schemes being talked about, it is important to focus on BPS more than ever this year. You will need to follow the BPS rules, including cross compliance, for the entire calendar year (1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021).
Inspections will continue for BPS eligibility and cross compliance reasons. There are no greening rules in England to consider this year, but there is the young farmer scheme, which continues to operate for those eligible for payments.
It is critical to read the scheme rules in full. You can find them, along with how to complete the claim, land use codes and amending mapping, on the government's BPS page and on its rural payments and grants page.
2. Key change: Removal of greening requirements
All three greening requirements have been permanently removed: crop diversification, ecological focus areas and the greening rules related to permanent grassland.
The previous money linked with carrying out greening has been added to your BPS entitlement for 2021 and later years. There will not be any greening-related inspections this year.
It is important, however, to remember that rules continue to apply to permanent grassland, such as protection of semi-natural and natural grasslands.
It is also important to bear in mind that accurate land use declaration will still be required on the BPS form as it is required when the RPA carries out its annual cross check between BPS and agri-environmental schemes.
3. Key change: Removal of entitlement usage rules
This change removes the entitlement expiry usage rules from 2021 onwards, and means you do not need to use all entitlements once every two years to avoid losing them. Entitlements will still be assessed for usage for 2020 and in previous years, including any claim recalculations.
4. Key change: Removal of cross border holdings status
If you have land in more than one part of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales), this will no longer be treated as a single claim holding for BPS. BPS applications submitted in England will now be treated completely separately from any applications you make to other UK administrations.
The RPA will only process and pay your English BPS claim. If you want to claim BPS in other parts of the UK, ensure you make claims to those respective devolved administrations and follow the rules in place in there.
5. Rule changes affect how you complete the 2021 BPS claim
What has changed?
The RPA has removed the ability to change currency, the references to cross border holdings and organic certificates on both the paper and online forms. Online, the RPA has also removed some of the greening references, such as the ‘use less EFA section’ and EFA hedges status on the maps. Online, there are also no entitlement use-by dates for 2021.
In terms of declaration of land to claim BPS, existing rules remain in place. The land use code is what is declared on the 17 May or the ‘main crop’ if sown later.
With the removal of greening, there is no longer reference and inspection periods for fallow land used for EFA or Crop Diversification nor EFA Nitrogen Fixing Crops. There is a revised definition of fallow land to be aware of.
What hasn’t changed
The Land Use table and EFA coding have been retained online. The land-use screens still contain some features that were previously relevant only for greening. There is no need to enter information for features in a land parcel that are measured in linear metres and would previously have counted for EFA, such as hedges, buffer strips or margins; these land use codes should no longer be used. The land use codes for nitrogen fixing crops and fallow are still valid for a BPS claim.
Also, you do not need to enter information for a land parcel in rotation 2 – this was previously used to notify RPA of EFA catch or cover crops. You can ignore or delete any information that is already pre-populated on the land-use screen for the aforementioned linear EFA features replayed from BPS 2020.
It is important to note that since the 18 March, the RPA has confirmed to the NFU the following in respect of EFA 2020 land use codes and what happens if they are not removed in 2021.
The RPA states: “On EFA land use, if a farmer does not remove any EFA options in 2021 they will remain within the Update Land Use table in 2022, but will not appear on a 2021 Application PDF summary (also not on a paper form this year or next). If, however it’s an arable land use and there have been mapping changes, the land use will need to be re-entered as these are not rolled over.”
Finally, the application summary PDF form referencing has been retained, but some parts are removed.
6. COVID-19 has affected application processes
The RPA has provided updated information about how to get claims and supporting documents to it, including email protocols and what can be emailed or has to be posted.
The RPA wants communication to be electronic where possible, so it is important to keep contact details, such as email, phone and permissions, up to date on the Rural Payments service.
Remember that the RPA can only accept emails from email addresses that are registered for the Rural Payments service.
The RPA continues to use email regularly, so check your junk email folder so you do not miss important correspondence. Also, remember that drop-in centres are not open.
7. If you have not started a claim already, start as soon as you can
All paper forms should be out by now. If you use the RPA’s online service to submit a claim, which 88% of you do, make sure that you can log on to it before you need to and familiarise yourself with the changes.
It is important to get online earlier this year because there have been changes to companies that support the uses of the gov.uk ‘verify’ process to authenticate user details.
Secondly, you can no longer log in on two different computers with the same rural payment log in details at the same time. Some claimants have done this in the past to view maps and the land use table simultaneously.
Finally, remember that the RPA service is impacted by downtime for essential maintenance from time to time. More information can be found here.
8. Allow yourself enough time
Work towards the 17 May deadline, but equally work back from that date to ensure you have enough time to complete the claim. Work closely with those people who are assisting you and be fully prepared by the time you make the claim. Ask yourself:
- Have there been any changes to the claimed area since the 2020 claim?
- Do I need to transfer any land or entitlements?
- Are there any further changes that need to be made since the RPA updated its mapping in 2021? (Check online mapping notifications)
- Is land changing hands and, if so, who claims what?
Also, remind yourself about the rules around BPS land eligibility. Please do remember that you need to declare all agricultural land that forms part of your holding on the application. This can include non-agricultural land that is part of a rural development agreement. Remember, land used to claim on BPS in 2021 must be ‘at your disposal’ on 17 May, and by the end of this day it is the person holding entitlements that can claim against them.
9 Read the new NFU resources
At the bottom of this page you will find:
- A summary of the key changes for BPS 2021 (BPS 2021: Policy changes for the 2021 scheme year)
- An administration guide on where to find information on BPS provided by the RPA (BPS 2021: Application information)
- A summary of the questions posed by members at our regional events this year, with our answers. Your burning question may well have already been asked by someone else
If you need any further support on BPS, please call NFU CallFirst on 0370 8458458.
10 Don’t forget the basics
If you are claiming online, you need to fully check the application before and after submitting it to ensure that the desired claim entries made have actually been transmitted to the RPA to avoid a lower payment. It is vital to use the online ‘Activate less BPS area’ or 'Activate less commons’ sections to ensure the desired claimed areas are captured.
Also, immediately after submitting an online claim, generate a new application summary, print it off and save it as PDF to keep as a record. This will be the only exact copy of what you submitted with date and time of submission on it. Check the claim entries on this before filing it away. Read the ‘How to Apply Online Guidance’ in full to understand more.
Ensure any supporting documents get to the RPA in time and keep a carbon copy of them. Finally, follow the RPA guidance on what receipts should be received and make a diary note of when to you will receive any of them back through the post. Chase the RPA if they do not arrive.
Where can I find out more?
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