Be ready for Basic Payment Scheme form, says expert

Tom Gee, an agri-business consultant at Brown & Co�s Bury St Edmunds office

Tom Gee, an agri-business consultant at Brown & Co�s Bury St Edmunds office - Credit: Archant

Farmers and landowners intending to register for a new farm subsidy scheme should do so promptly in order to avoid potential penalties, an expert has warned.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has begun to send letters or emails to agents, farmers and landowners who currently claim under the previous subsidy programme, the Single Payment Scheme SPS, inviting them to register for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) via the Common Agricultural Policy Information Service (CAPIS).

All invitations should be sent out over the next two months.

Tom Gee (pictured inset), an agri-business consultant at estate agents Brown & Co’s Bury St Edmunds office, urged farmers not to leave the application process until the last minute.

“Although the deadline for BPS application is May 15, 2015, which seems a long way off, it’s likely that many farmers will delay until a few days before the deadline, and there is a lot to do before an application can be made,” he warned.

“A last-minute rush could increase the risk of the system crashing, wasting valuable time which could be better spent on the farm at that time of year.

“Leaving it late also reduces the chances of farmers being able to amend applications before the deadline, which could result in penalties.”

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The new system will also involve more work, he predicted.

“The Single Payment Scheme (SPS) process ended up being fairly straightforward. It would probably be a mistake to think this new process will be as simple, first time around. It is also worth remembering that farm software packages used for SPS cannot be used to apply for BPS in 2015.”

One key difference is that BPS applications can only be made online, so farmers need to check their systems can cope, he said.

“DEFRA has listed key requirements on its website, which include an up-to-date operating system and web browser and a broadband internet connection with a download speed of 1Mbps or more. DEFRA has said slower connections will work, though not as well.

“But many farmers only have very poor internet speeds while others don’t have computers at all. DEFRA has written to those with no digital history offering extra help. We would urge them to act quickly. Now might be a good time to appoint an agent to do the application for them.”

Before logging into CAPIS, each user will need to verify their identity. As well as the usual contact details, users may need to supply passport and driving licence numbers. Some personal information and financial details may also be needed, such as details from bank account numbers, loan or mortgage details, store cards or utility bills.

Once the registration process is complete, the businesses that the named individual is associated with will then be listed.

“It will be necessary to check that the details of each business are correct, including the land, people and permissions associated with the business,” said Mr Gee.

“By doing their homework now, they will be better prepared to ensure they meet all these registration requirements when the time comes. CAPIS will help applicants to check if they meet the greening rules, but by then time might be tight.”