Farmers have inundated the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) with more than 50,000 mapping corrections after a large-scale re-mapping exercise went horribly wrong.
Since last August, the RPA has been updating its mapping data in order to avoid hefty fines from the European Commission, but as Farmers Guardian reported in December, many of the changes made were incorrect.
Now a new survey of NFU members has found at least a third of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applicants are unhappy with their mapping changes, and deputy president Guy Smith has warned Mr Gove ‘the buck stops with him’ on payment delivery.
Mr Smith calculated at least 50,000 RLE1 forms would be winging their way to the RPA if each unhappy applicant needed to correct two changes each, but the figure is likely to be higher as some farmers have had up to 50.
Mr Smith said: “The RPA has suggested not every mapping change has to be reversed, but farmers are rightly nervous about leaving uncorrected what they see as incorrect mapping in case it comes back to haunt them.
“The NFU will be furious if we find applicants are in some way disadvantaged going forward.”
Mr Smith also raised concerns about Countryside Stewardship payments being delayed by the mapping blunder, saying it was vital agreement holders do not pay the price for ‘system failure’.
Mr Gove told this week’s Health and Harmony consultation event in Coventry that Countryside Stewardship payments were being made ’slower than an arthritic snail’.
“It is clear both the RPA and Natural England are struggling and stretched”, added Mr Smith.
“Defra Secretary Michael Gove admits delivery is unacceptably poor and I applaud him for such candid contrition.
“However, soon he will be a year in post, by which time he will need to show improvements. The buck stops with him.”
An RPA spokesman assured Farmers Guardian the agency was equipped to deal with the processing of RLE1s, but pointed to guidance on the gov.uk website which shows how farmers can raise mapping queries outside the RLE1 process.
RLE1 forms can be sent to the RPA with sketch maps before July 6 2018.