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CAP reform: Guide to English BPS 2015 handbook


Last week, Defra published the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) Handbook for 2015. Richard Wordsworth, NFU senior BPS adviser sets out some of the key issues.

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The Handbook replaces the Defra CAP reform leaflets released in April, August, October and December 2014. 


It is important to read it from cover to cover for two critical reasons:


  • It contains new information not previously been covered in the earlier CAP leaflets and;
  • Some previous information has changed since the previous publications were issued.

Active farmer

If you need to use the two financial readmission criteria, you will also need to submit the ‘Accountant Certificate – Active Farmer Status’ certification form and the ‘Procedures to Confirm Active Farmer Status’ form. An independent accountant will need to complete these on your behalf and you must then send the completed forms to the RPA by the May 15 deadline. The certification form and guidance can be found separately online.

The BPS 2015 Handbook

You can view Defra’s BPS 2015 Handbook here

See Farmers Guardian’s comprehensive CAP reform guide here



Midnight, May 15: The BPS application deadline. This is also the deadline for submitting any supporting evidence such as certification forms.


June 1: You can make certain changes to your submitted application up until June 1.


June 9: . Applications and evidence will still be accepted up until June 9 but subject to a penalty of 1 per cent per working day.

Land information and rules

Agricultural land: You need to declare all your agricultural land and land in a rural development scheme on your online Rural Payments application. 


Land at your disposal: These rules are similar to SPS.  It is however important to check that any land arrangements in place comply with the BPS land rules, as the RPA may ask to see evidence that you are eligible to claim BPS on the land that forms part of your claim.


Dual Use: This is where two parties claim on the land under different CAP schemes at the same time. This is allowed in situations where Environmental Stewardship and Woodland Grant scheme is applied for at the same time as BPS, but make sure your paperwork is in order. 


BPS Eligible Land: Read the definitions carefully as they are different to SPS. The minimum BPS eligible area per field is 0.1ha, but this can be made up of smaller areas of 0.01ha or more. All land claimed on for BPS must be eligible for the whole calendar year, this principle applied under SPS. There are non-agricultural activity rules to also consider.


Permanent Grassland: A change from SPS is that the RPA’s new online service will automatically show a whole land parcel that has been declared as temporary grassland for more than 5 SPS and/or BPS as permanent grassland.  It is important to be clear on the designation of grassland in 2015 when working out the arable land of the holding, as this affects the basis of the 2015 greening calculation. Permanent grass cannot be used to meet the greening rules.


Permanent crops: The list of crops covered by this designation is different to SPS. Permanent crops cannot be used to meet the greening rules.


Trees and BPS eligibility: There has been a change from the August 2014 CAP guidance; there is no 100 tree per hectare limit going forward. Please read the guidance on carefully on which trees are eligible and which are not.


To claim BPS you need at least 5 entitlements with 5 hectares of associated eligible BPS land. You will keep all your BPS entitlements if you declare enough hectares of eligible land on your 2015 application to support them. 


Transfer of entitlements: Entitlements can be transferred online at any time but it is only the person who holds the entitlements at midnight on May 15 who can use them to get paid in that scheme year. Transfers by sale or lease should take around 24 hours online to be completed (so no six-week delay or April 2 deadline to consider this year). Remember entitlements can only be transferred to active farmers.

Greening Rules

If you declare land on your application it is then your responsibility to ensure that greening rules are met on the land for the whole of the calendar year.


Crop Diversification Calculation: It is important to note that both the number of crops and proportions of those crops need to be correct in order to fully comply with Crop Diversification.


Crop Diversification inspections: For the purpose of inspecting crop diversification requirements there will be an inspection period of May 1 to June 30. There are rules set out in the Annex if the crops are not there for the 2 month period.


Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs): The rules of management of the EFA fallow period (1 January 2015 – 30 June 2015) have been updated. Changes include:

  • You can also sow grass, but only if you can show that it is being sown for reasons other than agricultural production, such as where it is sown under an agri-environment scheme – this is a change from earlier guidance.
  • You can only apply fertilisers or farmyard manure where a wild bird seed mix, a pollen source or a nectar source has also been sown on EFA fallow.


If these combinations exist in a field - where EFA hedges are next to EFA fallow land, nitrogen fixing crops or catch/cover crops - carefully read the new rules. The area taken up by the fallow land, nitrogen fixing crops or catch/cover crops will need to be reduced as the EFA hedge in this situation has an ‘EFA area’.

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