In this blog from our senior adviser on BPS, Richard Wordsworth looks at the key things that you need to do to be ready for the 2018 applications. He writes:
We continue to work on behalf of members on all BPS issues, such as outstanding 2017 payments, however time marches on and, given some recent critical news, it is more vital now to think ahead about BPS 2018 applications. We have pulled together some key actions that you need to look at now, or at the very least to be aware of:
Shorter application window for 2018
The RPA recently announced that the application window for BPS 2018 will not open until mid-March. Last year it opened on 1 March. Put another way, that is a reduction from ten weeks to eight weeks – how does that tie in with your farming calendar from March through to May? The reason for the change is that the RPA are continuing to review and update mapping for 2018 – and they're doing this before the applications open so that you can see all the changes up-front (plus those from 2017 you may not have yet seen).
While figures show that most BPS claims are submitted in the 2-3 weeks leading up to the 15 May deadline, it is critical to get on with your claim early this year. Why do I say this? Well for the following reason; if you have not yet picked up on the fact that your online mapping, which is used as the basis of the prepopulated data on your BPS claim, may have changed, it could take you longer to complete the form and any supplementary actions in correcting that mapping. More information can be found here.
Then there are the changes to greening rules to consider. If you have only used EFA fallow or nitrogen fixing crops in the past and need to venture into using hedges / field margins, then that is going to take a bit longer to deal with this year. Mapping guidance is available now, with the RPA rules on greening expected soon. In the meantime the NFU has put together guidance on the greening changes here.
Then there is another point that is often not fully appreciated by farmers at this time of the year - using the services of someone to help you complete the application. If you add the extra time on your claim to all the other claims that person assists with, then that puts pressure on time to complete all the work. So help them to help you by being prepared for the annual form filling session. Yes agents and the like are paid to do the work, but working with them will help everyone – working together starts now and it may reduce your bill at the end of it.
Preparation is key - what can you do at this time?
Here are some key things that would be on my to-do list in February:
- Get online - if you have not logged online since last spring, go on now to ensure you can get in when you want to apply. While you're there, check your claim permissions and that the RPA has your correct email address and contact details (they will use the registered details to contact you).
- Entitlement and land management - you can transfer entitlements and land online now in most situations, so make any changes now. Also, sort out with others if land is changing hands and who claims. Finally, measure any crops splits for greening or ineligible features that you need to notify the RPA about to update the online mapping.
- Mapping – BPS is a land based scheme – look at your online mapping now and check that all is in order. If not, completing an RLE1 form and submitting evidence this week will help when it comes to completing the 2018 claim form. The RPA are turning changes around quickly at present.
- Guidance – watch out for the RPA issuing guidance online. It is not going to be sent to you, so do not ignore RPA emails - read them, check agents / spam folders / online email details if no RPA emails are received. Updated scheme rules and how to apply online / paper and any supplementary forms for BPS 2018 will be found here. The only way to understand the rules is to read this guidance in full, such as 2018 greening rule changes. Remember that NFU CallFirst is always on hand to assist you understand the rules in place. Call them on 0870 8458458.
- Finally, watch out for dates of any NFU BPS meetings in your area – these will be posted here.