With the 2017 BPS application window now open the NFU’s Richard Wordsworth sets out a few key thoughts. He writes:
The BPS 2017 application process builds on last year’s approach, and the key as always is to understand the procedure, know what is available and not to assume you did things correctly last time around. Here’s a rundown of some key points for the coming days and weeks:
The deadline and what’s coming from the RPA
15 May is deadline day -put this date in your calendar / your NFU diary and add reminders beforehand. Why is this more important than ever, I hear you say? Well, if you applied online in 2016, you will not get any brown envelopes from the RPA through the post in March about BPS 2017. The place to look for information is your computer.
The RPA has and will continue to send BPS 2017 information to you via email, signposting you to what you need to do online (and where to find information). So do not delete RPA emails - read then – and check agents / spam folders etc. The agency sends the information to the email address they hold on their systems, so if there is a problem and no RPA emails have been received to-date, then speak to them. They’ve sent two emails so far – one asking you to get ready and one saying the BPS 2017 application window is open. Paper forms and guidance will only initially be issued to those that claimed on paper in 2016 and did not use an agent.
What to do first?
Well, you can submit an online claim today (having read the rules and how to apply guidance first of course). We gather more than a thousand claims have already been received by the RPA. And if you’re not applying just now there are still things you can get on with. If you will apply online, can you get on – where is the password? Do you need to update business contact details or email addresses? Do you need to update who and what access others have to your claim details?
While never a best seller, it is key to download / print off the main BPS guidance, the updated-for-2017 BPS Handbook (which includes cross border / commons details) and the ‘How to Apply Guidance’ (there are separate ones for paper and online applications again this year). It’s all on Gov.uk.
One-stop-shop and online considerations
Thanks to NFU lobbying, the RPA has again this year got a dedicated BPS 2017 web page. Key information here includes Young Farmer Scheme guidance plus the Greening Workbook to help you check you comply. If applying online, watch out for the information on the Rural Payments service availability, it will be down from time to time, so don’t leave things to the last minute! Log on now, to ensure you can get in when you want to apply. The main downtime period will be from 16:00hrs on Thursday 23rd March to 08:00hrs on Monday 27th March, so that’s not the weekend to put aside time for BPS 2017 online, but it shouldn’t stop you doing other things that you can be getting on with, such as checking crop areas, measuring hedges / buffers strips etc for EFA, finding the organic land status document, as well as reading that all important guidance…
Considering a first-time online application...
Or maybe you just want remind yourself of what to do? There is telephone support and YouTube videos available to you. There will be fewer drop-in centres with limited opening hours this year to deliver paper forms. Remember you can make land / entitlement transfers online, with confirmation coming very quickly thereafter.
Watch out as land data may have been updated by the RPA, so check it carefully with the online land viewer mapping. Remember, it's your responsibility to make sure that all the land included in your application is correct, that you hold the correct number of entitlements and that you meet all the scheme rules. Of course, some of you still do not know the position of BPS 2015 / 2016. If unsure, you still need to complete the claim based on the rules in place, there may be a need to hold off applying until later in April to see if online data is updated, or clearly where you are waiting for an online entitlement transfer to take place, but remember the application deadlines in place.
Finally, if you are ready to make that claim soon, don’t forget the basics, retain a copy of the application form, especially if applying online and remember that receipt!
You must print off and save on your computer a ‘carbon copy’ of what you submitted to the RPA, as it is difficult to extract the claim position at a later date, if there is a problem. Also remember to ensure you have a receipt - online submissions will receive an online notification. Paper submissions will receive an acknowledgment card (these will only be issued for BP5 & RLE1 forms). Make sure your keep these safe. That’s it for now, watch out for the next instalment!