A survey of farmers finds lack of confidence in subsidy administration

A survey of farmers finds lack of confidence in subsidy administration - Credit: citizenside.com

Agricultural industry leaders have complained of a “worryingly widespread” lack of forms, information and confidence over this year’s farm subsidy regime following a survey of farmers.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it has been actively contacting its members to find out how they are progressing with their new Basic Payment Scheme applications in recent weeks, given an extension to the deadline and confusion and uncertainty since the Rural Payments Agency, (RPA), which administers it, moved away from an online-only system.

Its survey showed that of those that are self-completing their BPS application, nearly half of respondents (42.4%) were unaware that the RPA has support centres available.

Around a fifth said they had not received an email or paper forms from the RPA since April 12, and nearly one fifth (18.2%) said information on their BP5 forms were incorrect – but 42% had yet to check – most looking to complete the forms in May.

More than a quarter (26.7%) said they had not received copies of their maps since September 2014.

However, the NFU started a follow up survey on May 1 with its members on the same issues, and initial results suggested there have been some improvements.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) said it has now issued all pre-populated BP5 application forms, and had now received almost 8,500 completed forms.

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NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “Given the complexities, challenges and last minute changes involved in this year’s BPS applications it is really important the NFU keeps its ear to the ground so it can hear from its members as to how things are progressing. This in turn will help us in our lobbying to avoid excessively delayed payments or penalties. Our intention is to regularly publish the results of our ongoing survey so we can better inform our constant talks with the RPA and express the anger and frustration our members are going through when what they really want to be doing is getting down to the business of farming.

“We do appreciate this is extra form filling, but would strongly encourage members who have yet to take part in our survey to spend just a few minutes completing it. It is vital that we get their feedback, as the next few weeks are absolutely critical.

“Meanwhile we continue to encourage members to endeavour as best they can to submit forms in good order and in good time and we remind our members of the need for extra care and attention to detail in this all important initial year of BPS.”

More information on BPS for NFU members can be found on NFUOnline or by calling NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) said anyone who has not received their form, either by email or post, should contact the Rural Payments helpline on 03000 200 301. A form will then be printed out and posted within 48 hours.