Farmers and land managers have until May 17 to apply for this year’s Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and claim for Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environment Stewardship (ES) payments.
It is understood the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has made several simplifications to BPS this year to reduce the burden on farmers as they transition to the new system, with cross compliance changes including an increased use of warning letters and offers of advice instead of farmer penalties as the default response to a breach of the rules.
Greening requirements for BPS recipients will also be removed for 2021, following the RPA’s announcement last year.
RPA chief executive, Paul Caldwell, said the agency will continue its commitment to ensuring timely payments to farmers and land managers but urged those applying to not leave it until the last minute.
However this year will mark the start of the phase-out period, with direct payments being reduced ’fairly’ each year as the Government switches to the roll out of its three schemes, Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery, to encourage environmental land management and boost farmers’ productivity.
The last payments will be made in 2027.
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “We are undertaking the biggest change to agricultural policy in half a century, tailored to the needs of our farmers.
“I understand that some will be feeling anxious about the future. That is why we are making changes in a gradual way, and progressively reducing direct payments whilst we develop our new schemes.
“Farm resilience support is available to farmers throughout the first three years of the agricultural transition period, to help those most affected by the phasing out of direct payments.
“This will support the choices of individual farm enterprises, and help them plan for the future.”