Since the beginning of 2018, Sheldon Bosley Knight’s Rural Land Agency department have been preparing annual Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications for numerous farmers and land owners. Over 33,000 acres of land throughout Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire was reviewed as part of the application process.
The procedure in applying for BPS involved meeting with farmers and landowners to discuss cropping, mapping ineligible features, calculating Ecological Focus Area and crop diversification requirements, and hand delivering supporting documentation to the Rural Payments Agency Reading Office. The two month application window was particularly onerous due to alterations made by the RPA often being incorrect.
Now the 15th of May deadline has passed the team are moving onto preparing Countryside Stewardship Scheme applications for both Mid-Tier and the new ‘streamlined’ Wildlife Offers.
Application packs for the Scheme need to be requested by 31st May 2018 and completed applications must be submitted by 31st July. If anyone wishes to discuss Countryside Stewardship in greater detail, including how it could be integrated into their farm business, please do not hesitate to get in contact with either Amelia Sheldon or Sam White on 01608 661666.
Further details have now been released surrounding the European Union’s decision to alter the greening regulations and these changes will influence BPS applications in 2018.
DEFRA have confirmed that the ban of Plant Protection Products for nitrogen fixing crops that contribute towards Ecological Focus Area requirements will apply for the entire lifecycle of the crop, even if this is before 2018.
The definition of EFA buffer strips is being extended to include field margins, (not previously available as an EFA option in England), minimum width of 1 metre remains and the EFA value of field margins will be the same as EFA buffer strips.
There are no alterations for the period for which EFA cover crops must be maintained, however EFA catch crops must be maintained for a minimum of 8 weeks starting from 20th August 2018 and retained until 14th October 2018. It is believed that this ban will also apply to seed dressings, however further confirmation is needed to confirm this.
For crop diversification, areas can be declared as ‘mixed crops’ that contains small areas of different crops grown next to each other, these areas would otherwise be too small to claim (less than 0.01 hectares).
There will be far reaching impacts on the agricultural sector due to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Questions have already been asked surrounding subsidy payments, stewardship arrangements, land prices and the value of British produce and the resulting impact that this will have on consumers.
The country awoke on that Friday morning to hear the announcement that the UK had narrowly voted for Brexit. We now have considerable turmoil with a leaderless Government, following the resignation of the Prime Minister, and a rudderless opposition. When we trigger Article 50 is not known. There is no plan for the country let alone UK agriculture. There are calls for a General Election to elect a new Government. The incumbent, right of centre, Government will likely view the industry very differently to those left wing if only for the votes that they perceive to be available.
The NFU have already urged the Government to ensure that a comparable level and form of support should continue to be allocated for farmers. The current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) represents 40% of the EU budget and it is questionable whether any future Government would commit to an amount of this equivalence being spent on agricultural subsidies. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has provided figures which state that 55% of farm income currently comes from CAP and 70% of farm profitability is dependent on EU support. Given current commodity prices this will have understated the case.
The current Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) should not be influenced by Brexit, whilst the UK is still within the EU, but it will be the responsibility of Government to ensure that British agriculture is competitive and financially sustainable particularly if there is pressure on reducing subsidy levels. EU subsidies contribute towards environmental improvement, through Countryside Stewardship Schemes and it is expected that Natural England will provide clarification before expecting farmers to enter into the next 5 year agreement.
The value of farmland is expected to be maintained and it is possible that more land will come to the market with some landowners wishing to clear their hand in a time of some uncertainty.
The NFU President, Meurig Raymond, has warned that consumers in the UK should expect to see food prices increasing, due to the dependency the country has on imports with some 70% of food imports coming from the EU. The impact of this will be dependent on whether or not a deal can be struck for the UK to remain within the Single Market, but participation of the Single Market requires the free movement of people, so this might be hard to swallow for some in the ‘Vote Leave’ camp. British farming produces 61% of the food that is consumed in the UK, therefore new trade deals relating to imports will need to be agreed, with no realistic prospect of the nation becoming self-sufficient. The NFU have stated that restrictions should be placed on imports that do not comply with UK standards and that a tariff for imports outside of the EU should be maintained.
The export market could also be influenced by the Brexit decision due to 60% of all food exports going to the EU. However the impact that has already been seen on the exchange rate and resulting weaker pound could enable UK produce to be viewed as more affordable, at least in the short term.
The future for the entire agricultural industry will be uncertain in a post EU world. Plans are still to be drawn up which will formally indicate and advise the way in which the industry will be shaped and will move. It will be the responsibility of the UK Government to create a strategic plan and the sector will look towards DEFRA to ensure interests are safeguarded and prioritised at Westminster.
For more information contact James Walton or other members of the Rural Land Agency department on 01789 292310.
The Basic Payment Scheme deadline has passed for another year, but there are some issues from 2015 still outstanding.
The large number of unjustified penalties being levied by the RPA is a big one that needs some input from claimants. Please double check 2015 Claim Statements for Penalties: the RPA have made a very large number of erroneous penalty reductions to 2015 BPS payments and unfortunately, the new format for Claim Statements this year makes these difficult to detect.
Check carefully for over-declaration and greening penalties. This year the number of unjustified penalties is very high. So please check and double check your Claim Statements and if in any doubt copy them to Sally Pentreath or email or write to the RPA to ensure they are aware of the issue and will add it to their growing list of anomalies to be sorted out over the summer.
It is now the season when members of the Rural Land Agency Department are busy assisting farmers with their various subsidy applications.
The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is important to all farmers, with a deadline of 16th May to get the main application and its associated land transfers and changes, and entitlement transfers, submitted accurately and in good time. The BPS application process also requires detailed ‘greening’ calculations which can be quite complex, particularly for the bigger arable and mixed holdings.
In January 2015 the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) announced that 2015 BPS applications would only be accepted online, but later conceded that the online system was not fit for purpose and so, in mid-April, provided paper forms for postal or hand submission. For 2016, RPA are giving applicants the choice of applying online or using paper forms. In both cases these will be pre-populated.
RPA are providing paper forms to anyone who applied on paper in 2014. RPA is encouraging any farmer who applied online in 2014 to do so again in 2016, and will therefore supply pre-populated electronic forms to roughly 60,000 applicants. It remains to be seen whether the online service will be sufficiently reliable for us to make online applications in any numbers however, and if necessary paper forms will be requested for all applicants.
Countryside Stewardship (CS), Environmental Stewardship (ES) and English Woodland Grant Schemes (EWGS) all now require annual claims before the same 16th May deadline and we deal with a good number of these alongside the BPS claims.
Each year we also advise and assist several farmers with the transition from expiring ES agreements to the new CS. The application window for this in 2016 runs from mid-March to the end of September to help avoid the problems caused by the shorter 3 month window for CS applications in 2015 which ran from 1st July to 30th September – right through the main harvest time. The CS scheme now encompasses some ‘stand-alone’ schemes, with separate deadlines, such as the Hedgerow and Boundary Grant Scheme and the Woodland Creation scheme, providing capital grants for a range of items.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has confirmed the entitlement values, including those for greening, that will now be used to calculate farmers’ 2015 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments.
The following has been reproduced from the Gov.uk website and explains entitlement values, Greening Rates, the National Reserve and the Young Farmer payment. Further guidance can also be viewed here.
Under the BPS scheme, farmers need to hold an entitlement for every hectare of eligible land they are claiming on. The size of farmers’ payments will depend on how many entitlements they use, supported by eligible land and the value of those entitlements.
Entitlement values are:
€ 171.83 for non-SDA (Severely Disadvantaged Areas)
€ 170.60 for upland SDA, other than moorland
€ 45.07 for upland SDA moorland
Farmers must also meet new greening rules to receive additional funding. The greening part of payments will be calculated by taking the number of entitlements that they have used with eligible land to claim payment and multiplying it by the greening value.
The greening rates are:
€ 76.19 for non-SDA (Severely Disadvantaged Areas)
€ 75.64 for upland SDA, other than moorland
€ 19.99 for upland SDA moorland
The exchange rate that will be applied is €1 = £0.73129
The scheme’s National Reserve – used to fund additional entitlements for the Young and New Farmers – has been set at 0.75%. The RPA will soon be contacting anyone who has applied for entitlements from the National Reserve to confirm if their application has been successful.
Young Farmer Payment
Eligible Young Farmers, who applied, will receive an additional payment equivalent to a quarter of their entitlement value. The RPA remains on track to make full BPS payments as early as possible in the payment window with the majority before the end of December and the vast majority by the end of January 2016.The BPS payment window opens in December and closes in June 2016.
For assistance or information please contact Laura Gaydon, Associate Partner in our Shipston on Stour office.