The latest NFU member survey has shown an ‘alarming’ rise in the number of farmers needing professional help to complete their BPS application.
In 2017, more than half of farmers – 55 per cent – required assistance, raising concerns about the complexity of the system and added costs for applicants.
The research also found 14 per cent of farmers still had outstanding problems with their BPS claims from 2015 and 2016.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “The rise in claimants seeking professional assistance with their applications is alarming.
“We have always maintained that BPS should not be beyond the average farmer. It should be an accessible system for all.
“Over half saying they needed assistance shows cost is being loaded into the industry through a lack of clarity and a perception that the process is difficult.
“Many members who did not have claim issues found the process straightforward.”
Mr Smith also said the members still struggling with problems from 2015 and 2016 claims were ‘understandably angry’ about delays, errors and underpayments.
“Those with problems from previous years struggled with some elements of the 2017 claim, with some needing to complete supplementary forms to show land correctly”, he added.
“This will add to the workload in the coming months for the Rural Payments Agency, when resources must be under pressure.
“There is still a strong expectation of the RPA achieving at least 90 per cent of claims paid in December.”