Richard Wordsworth, NFU senior BPS adviser writes:
As we head into the Autumn, we move closer to the start of the BPS payment window, which as we know opens on 1 December, so focus on BPS payments increases. Here at the NFU we continue to take every opportunity to raise the non-payment of BPS claims with the RPA, be that at our regular face-to-face meetings with the RPA and Defra officials, or when our national officeholder team meet RPA CEO Paul Caldwell.
Pre 2018 Payment Issues
This year is the fourth year of BPS payments, and most farmers will now have been paid what they are due. However for still far too many, there is an overhang of issues from previous years which continue to cause stress and unwanted financial pressures at this challenging time for farming. The NFU BPS team continues to support members who have a multitude of issues at this time of the year. There are still many hundreds of cases that need to be resolved and NFU is pushing the RPA to resolve them as quickly as possible.
At the start of August we estimated there was around £46m outstanding from pre BPS 2018 claim years to pay out. Getting this money out to those that are due additional payment has been a key focus of our work. This outstanding sum is coming down.
At the current time farmers are receiving a reimbursement of BPS monies that were originally taken from the 2016 BPS payment. These payments, referred to as Financial Discipline mechanism payments should drop into eligible farmers bank accounts by mid October, in total there are c£21m worth of payments landing at this time. As with most things that originate from the EU CAP, the process around these payments is not straightforward. To help you we have put a guide online here.
The next big chunk of monies that are due are the backdated payments due to commoners as a result of the change in approach to allocate common land following the Minchinhampton and Rodborough common legal challenge. The NFU has been lobbying the RPA extensively for the release of these payments ever since the opportunity to adjust payments was announced.
There have been many false dawns, but it is now likely that the first of the BPS 2015-2017 adjusted payments will be released this month. We want to see as many of these payments, and critically adjustment of associated entitlement records. being completed by the 1 December to allow this group of disadvantaged farmers to get a correct BPS payment for the first time in 2018. The NFU has impressed on the RPA to up its communications and information around the delivery of these payments. More details on our commons work can be found here.
The beginning of October also means the RPA announcing the exchange rate converting euros into sterling for BPS payments. This year the Euro exchange rate for BPS 2018 payments is €1 = £0.89281, this compares to the rate set last year for BPS 2017 which was €1 = £0.89470. The 2018 rate set shows a small decrease on the 2017 position, but it must be remembered that this rate is the second most favourable since 2009, when it topped 90p per euro. If you want to read more about why this exchange rate is only half the story, then head to our briefing here.
While the level of payment is obviously helpful to know from a budgeting point of view, cash flow management is even more important. We continue to interrogate the RPA on the processing of the 2018 applications. This includes progress on a range of issues such as the processing of supporting documents, entitlement transfers, young farmer information and of course completion of mapping changes and inspection work, as well as work on cross border claims and the BPS and agri-environmental scheme cross checks. Time will tell if all the current efforts will deliver a step change in payments this year. The NFU continues of course to lobby for earlier bridging payments for those not paid in December, critical given the year we have endured to date.
Finally, as a reminder you can track your claim’s status online via the RPA Rural Payments online service and to the ‘Apply for BPS’ screens. Also to help minimise payment delays or reductions to your payment, please ensure the RPA has your correct bank account and contact details. Also respond promptly to RPA enquiries, having first referred to the BPS guidance. If you do not fully understand the issue raised by the RPA, then please give NFU CallFirst a call on 0370 8458458.