RPA criticised over mapping element of new BPS farm subsidy scheme

St Osyth Farmer Guy Smith.

St Osyth Farmer Guy Smith. - Credit: Archant

Farmers’ patience is “wearing thin” as they grapple with the mapping requirements for a new farm subsidy regime, sector leaders have warned.

With a May 15 deadline for applications looming, farmers are experiencing problems with the mapping element of the online application process for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), they say.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice-president Guy Smith and other industry leaders met with senior Rural Payments Agency (RPA) executives to discuss the agency’s plans to deliver a fit-for-purpose BPS application system.

“I’m not surprised that our members’ patience is wearing thin as they struggle to meet the mapping requirements for the Rural Payments system,” said Mr Smith, an arable farmer based at St Osyth, Clacton.

“We are facing a critical period with the clock ticking on BPS applications and farm work mounting. I have had good reports from NFU members on the RPA’s handling registration for the BPS. However, the RPA’s communications to farmers on BPS mapping has been poor. Members are frustrated that the system has been taken offline without warning, that data processing is woefully slow and field data apparently missing.”

During the meeting, the RPA committed to making full mapping functions available from last weekend.

“If this level of functionality is not successfully dropped in this week then I’m sure the mood of the NFU and farmers will heighten from one of concern to one of justified alarm,” warned Mr Smith.

Most Read

“The RPA must deliver on its own mapping deadline as farmers will expect and deserve nothing less at this late stage. And the RPA must dramatically improve its communications with farmers and agents – at this stage both need a clear timetable for delivery of new functions and what the remainder of the application process looks like, so that preparatory work can take place now and applications can be prepared in good time for May 15.”

The NFU is also demanding that the RPA produce comprehensive guidance that can be easily printed off to help farmers complete the online form, just as HMRC does for self-assessment.

An RPA spokesman said the agency was working hard to make improvements to the service and was addressing some of the problems farmers have been facing such as making it easier to map land features and confirm the size of land. Guidance to help farmers map their land on Rural Payments was being published last week.

“Farmers who need help should call the Rural Payments helpline on 03000 200 301,” he said.

“Options include assistance from a local source of support and attending one of our 50 support centres that have been set up across the country. We are also working with agents to help those with the most complex claims.

“Three quarters of farm businesses have now registered for Rural Payments. It is really important those who have not yet registered do so as soon as possible.

“It is quick and easy so please do not put it off. Call our helpline today on 03000 200 301 to start your BPS claim.”