With farmers’ attention being on outdoor work at this time of the year, NFU BPS expert Richard Wordsworth runs down a few BPS-related issues to be aware of.
Encouragingly from a payment delivery point of view, we are seeing the RPA contact farmers far earlier this year about the outcomes of inspections.
For some this communication will be following a visit from an RPA inspector, but for others it will come as a bit of a surprise, where there has been no such visit and the farm has been checked from the sky.
While it is all too easy to agree to the information provided by the RPA, it’s important to check that the findings match what is on the ground.
While thinking about the claim made back in the spring, please keep it under regular review and remember that for BPS, land must remain eligible all year in order to claim on it.
If changes to land occur, please refer to BPS guidance to see what you need to tell the RPA. Do not delay.
Common reasons why land could fail this year-round eligibility test include new non-agricultural use commencing post-harvest, such as construction of buildings, yards and tracks.
We will also shortly have briefing available online covering a range of considerations when new land is taken on.
You may not have picked up on it, but the RPA is currently carrying out an extensive review of the mapping data that it holds and uses to base BPS payments on.
This needs to be done now in order to make 2017 payments for both BPS and land-based schemes operated by Natural England and Forestry Commission.
To see if your land data has changed as a result of this exercise, head to the ‘view land’ screen within the Rural Payments Online service.
You need to be logged onto the system to see any map changes. The RPA will be notifying you of any fields where changes have occurred via the Rural Payment Online service notification process.
This is visible via the ‘message’ tab within the ‘Your Business’ screen.
The key is to check any changes and see if they could impact on the payment of either BPS or agri-environmental schemes.
For example, if two fields are merged together where one is inside and one is outside of an ELS agreement, it could lead to payment delays and problems and you need to let the RPA know.
Can the RPA contact you or pay you?
While communications from the RPA at this time can be best described as non-existent, there’s no excuse for not keeping them up-to-date with your contact details, be that a new phone number or email address (remembering the RPA only responds to inbound email addresses registered on their system).
So to avoid problems, please ensure they have the latest information, especially as more information is issued via their Rural Payments Online system.
Finally, it is important to know that if you have changed or want to change the bank account your BPS monies are paid into, then you need to tell RPA by the 20 November to avoid problems.
Payments appearing from the RPA – what are they?
This month sees a large a proportion of farmers who claimed BPS in 2016 receiving a Financial Discipline Mechanism (FDM) refund payment.
Like last year, these monies originate from deductions taken from the previous year’s payments – being recycled back.
As with all things BPS the detail is complicated, but we have put a Q&A online for you to explain the payments and see if they are right, as the RPA only issues a remittance advice slip after the money has hit the bank account.
Retrospective Commons payments
In September 2015, the RPA contacted commoners who they believed might be eligible for an adjustment to their SPS and BPS payments as a result of the NFU-supported legal case looking at the approach to the apportionment of common land.
Many commoners applied for these payments, and over the summer this year the RPA paid out the first element of the monies due – for the SPS years.
It seems there are, however, a number of eligible commoners who have not applied for these payments.
My message to those who were contacted by the RPA is to respond using the form provided, as there may be monies due and that have not been paid out.
I will not go into the detail here, but greening rules for BPS 2018 are changing, and they start to impact now with the ban of plant protection products on land being used for the field-based EFA options of nitrogen fixing crops, fallow and catch/cover crops.
At this time the rules are not fully definitive, but are becoming a lot clearer. READ MORE HERE...
Understanding the changes now will help to avoid problems next year. Reminding yourself of the 2017 rules first may be helpful first as a refresher, as that will put the new rules into context.
If you need further assistance on BPS, greening or cross compliance, call NFU Callfirst on 0370 845 8458.