While the NFU continues to work on many BPS issues, not least the delivery of payments and better communications from the RPA, our focus is also very much on the development of BPS for 2018. We have pulled together below five key issues for members to consider going forward:
2018 greening Changes
It has been a frustrating period over recent months seeking clarity on the changes to greening for BPS 2018, but we now have a good understanding of the changes that are being introduced. The NFU has produced a guide for members available here.
Please take time to understand these changes, refresh yourself of the 2017 guidance and watch out for the 2018 rules, which we expect will be available in February. There will also be a greening workbook provided again this coming year from the RPA to ensure that your annual calculations for greening are based on the right approach.
Further BPS / greening rule changes in the pipeline
As a result of some recent developments in Europe there are a number of further changes to BPS expected to come into force from 1 January 2018.
The NFU has been working with Defra to understand these changes and how they impact on our members. The details will become clearer in the coming weeks, but what we know at this stage is there are some mandatory changes that need to be considered by DEFRA / RPA for BPS 2018. At this late stage in development of the suite of rules for BPS 2018, such developments cause significant challenges, not least when the final legal text is not going to be published until at least February.
As a result, we may therefore see additional guidance issued later than we would like and possibly some of the voluntary changes proposed not being possible until 2019, simply due to the tight timescales when trying to achieve a coherent and fully functioning claim application and payment process for 2018. Areas where changes are likely to be seen in 2018 include how permanent grassland is defined, some changes to make the rules and exemptions to greening possibly more beneficial and changes to the Young Farmer scheme. There may be more. Please keep an eye out for these changes via the BPS pages of NFUOnline or by visiting the Gov.uk website.
Over recent months, the RPA has reviewed and updated where necessary the mapping information which they use to make BPS and other CAP payments against. It is important to check your online mapping regularly and especially since this recent RPA activity. A number of errors created as a result of these changes have been reported to the NFU, so please do check the mapping carefully.
If you do not agree with the changes the RPA has made and the changes cause an impact on CAP payment consider completing an RLE1 form with evidence and comment supplied on the accompanying map, having first read the RLE1 guidance. More information can be found using the "more links" at the bottom of this page.
2018 application preparation
NFU has already been discussing with the RPA the approach to claiming BPS in 2018. The good news is that the approach will be very similar to 2017, but given there may be some rules changes coming along, being ready to understand them and being ready to claim is always an advantageous place to be. It is always useful before the claim window opens to look at your permissions, contact details etc, to save time later on by doing it now.
Equally watch out for the ability to transfer entitlements / land online via the RPA’s Rural Payments service. It is currently expected that this online capability will available by the early February. Also watch out for hopefully the ability to see potentially eligible EFA hedges using the online mapping this coming year to help apply for greening EFA when the application wind opens.
We hope the application window will again open up around 1 March, as there are Countryside Stewardship annual claim forms and for those wanting to set up an agreement there is Countryside Stewardship application to consider this coming year.
While there are to be paper forms available for most of those that claimed in 2017, perhaps having a look at the online approach may be beneficial to you, but this of course may be tempered by the state of your mapping post the RPA’s recent mapping review exercise.
The NFU will be out on the road this coming spring in most parts of the UK explaining the BPS 2018 application process and rule changes, so watch out for news on these events.
More information can be found using the "more links" at the bottom of this page.
Finally, watch out for news on the revised rules for BPS 2018, especially as these are not going to be issued to you in hard copy – there will be updated BPS scheme rules guidance as well as how to apply online / paper guides, so watch out for these. The RPA has already published the 2018 Cross Compliance handbook on gov.uk here. We have put a short article online here.