The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has issued a key clarification regarding grass buffer strips for farmers applying for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England.
The European Commission has clarified that arable land taken out of production under agri-environment scheme options retains its arable status rather than being treated as permanent grassland once it leaves the scheme.
For example, if land is in grass for three years and is then set aside under an agri-environment agreement for say five years, on completion of the agreement it will be treated as the fourth year of grassland, as long as it is still in grass.
The land would therefore still be considered temporary grassland on completion of the agreement, which has implications for greening calculations.
The clarification should pave the way for more applications. The lack of clarity on this issue, cited as an area of concern by a number of farmers at a recent NFU council meeting addressed by RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw, has prevented some claimants from being able to start applications.
Detailed guidance will be available on Monday (May 18).
With around 85,000 applications expected in total, the RPA has now received 12,900 BPS applications.
With just over four weeks to go until the June 15 deadline, farmers who have not yet submitted their claim are being urged to do so as soon as possible.
The RPA said it had sent farmers, either by email or on paper, everything they need to make their claim ahead of the application deadline.
Anyone who has not received their pre-populated form or maps should contact the Rural Payments helpline on 03000 200 301.
The agency has this week contacted farmers who do not have an agent reminding them about the application process and where they can find help. This includes the small number who have yet to register on the Rural Payments system.
RPA customer Director Justin Chamberlain said: “There is now just over a month to go until the application deadline and I would urge farmers to start their application as soon as possible.
“Please don’t leave it until the last moment – begin your claim now so that you have time to access any help you may need.”
All the guidance farmers need to apply for BPS in 2015 can be found at www.gov.uk/rpa/bps.
This includes the Basic Payment Scheme handbook, how to apply guide and The Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2015.
Farmers who need help to complete their application, or who have a question about the scheme, should call the helpline on 03000 200 301.
The helpline is open seven days a week – Monday to Friday 7am to 6pm and between 8am and 4pm on weekends. The helpline is generally quieter between 11am and 2pm on weekdays and during weekend opening hours.
Farmers who want to deliver their application by hand and get a receipt should visit one of 50 drop-in centres set-up across the country. Their locations and opening times can be found at www.gov.uk/rpa/bps or search for ‘find help to claim rural payments’.
The Agency also has 10 mobile support units which will be attending farming events across the country, including auction marts. Locations and events the mobile support units will be attending can be found at www.gov.uk/rpa/bps.