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Brexit – Boom or Bust

That the prospect of Brexit has caused some uncertainty for business is a significant understatement; agricultural business is not immune.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have produced a Brexit Impact Calculator, which appears to demonstrate that nearly all sectors of UK agriculture are to be negatively affected whatever the Brexit outcome. The proposed Agriculture Bill, currently working its way through the House of Commons, will see changes to the Basic Payment Scheme with cuts, particularly to the larger beneficiaries and money syphoned off to pilot a new environmental land management system.

At the very least farmers can expect this to be a time of change. Some flexibility in how each farm business operates will be essential. Further diversification opportunities should be explored, and the farm canvas painted in a way which maximizes the value of the asset for its income earning potential. Sheldon Bosley Knight are well placed to deliver advice on many forms of diversification, and for the alternative uses of land and buildings.

Productivity increases will be essential to maintain a margin on traditional agricultural enterprises. There is a very big difference between the top and bottom, in the scale of economic performance in UK agriculture. Many more will need to find ways of reaching the top to survive, and this will have to involve collaboration, cooperation, and improving skills including in business management.

James Walton Partner and Registered RICS Valuer
James Walton FRICS FAAV

Director & RICS Registered Valuer

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Latest News on The Basic Payment Scheme

Rural Payments AgencyThe Rural Payments Agency continues to struggle with the new BPS and are under pressure to get more payments out.

51% of claimants had been paid by 31st December representing only 29.9% of the money due. There is disquiet about the lack of transparency from RPA for unpaid farmers needing to have a clearer idea when they can expect the money.

BPS Entitlement Statements should be available in February to coincide with a new RPA online Entitlements transfer facility. The online process should be an improvement, being relatively quick and simple with almost instantaneous results.

There should also be a new RPA online Land and Maps Viewing facility available at the end of this month. This will be useful for checking any unexpected deductions for ineligible features or boundary changes.

It will be possible to apply for BPS 2016 either online or on paper forms. Details will follow. The RPA is not expected to attempt to relaunch the online mapping and application combination which failed so badly in 2015.

We will continue to bring you up to date with the latest on the BPS and will be posting more details at the end of January/beginning of February.  In the meantime for more information please contact Sally Pentreath by email spentreath@sheldonbosley.co.uk or call 01608 661666.

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The Basic Payment Scheme – what happens next?

BPS LeafletThe Rural Payments Agency has received 88,000 applications for the new Basic Payment Scheme and has been busy checking and processing them ready for payments to start.

The Agency will be contacting applicants during this month to confirm whether their application has been successful and payments will begin on 1st December. They are aiming to have the majority of payments made by 31st December and all successful applicants will receive a remittance advice detailing the amount paid.  Some payments may not arrive until January.

Following the remittance advice, the Agency will send out a Claim Statement showing how they’ve worked out the payment and any reductions or penalties that have been applied.

The RPA has published a leaflet detailing the timelines together with some important and useful reminders for all applicants – click here to download the leaflet.

Please contact our Rural Team in Shipston if you have any queries, tel:  01608 661666.

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Sheldon Bosley make record submission to RPA

Sheldon Bosley Rural Land Agency - Shipston on Stour and Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire - LS - Landscape

During the first two weeks of June the Rural Land Agency Department of Sheldon Bosley submitted Basic Payment Scheme claim forms to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on behalf of 120 farmers.

Wildlife habitatThis was the culmination of several months working closely with clients, mapping ineligible features and recording cropping data to satisfy the changes under the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). The work was complicated and often frustrated by frequent changes to the processes made by the RPA.

Now that the June 15th BPS deadline has passed, the team’s attention has turned to the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme which involves both Mid and Higher Tiers which will take over from the current Entry Level (ELS) and Higher Level (HLS) Schemes. The first job is to complete ‘expressions of interest’ forms by 15th July for clients who may qualify for Higher Tier Agreements beginning in January 2016. If successful at this first stage, we will be working on the substantive applications for these Higher Tier agreements as well as applications for clients who are eligible to apply for the Mid-tier to begin in January 2016.

Sally Pentreath - Sheldon Bosley - Shipston on StourThose whose applications are successful will be offered agreements towards the end of this year.  All new applications will need to be submitted to Natural England by the deadline of 30th Sept 2015.
Like the BPS there will now be annual claims required in respect of ongoing agreements, and applications for Mid or Higher Tier Agreements can be made in successive years as existing multi-year agreements come to an end.

Please contact Sally Pentreath, based at Shipston-on-Stour office on 01608 661666 for further information as soon as possible if you are looking to apply.

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RPA Fails Online

rural payments cheme fails online

The RPA announced yesterday evening that the Rural Payments online service has been replaced with emergency paper claim forms for the 2015 claim, following weeks of functionality issues and unscheduled ‘downtime’ of the new online service.  The deadline for submission is also likely to be extended to 15th June 2015. The online system costing the tax payer over £150 million has been having on-going problems since its release in January. The ‘technical’ issues that have contributed to weeks of delays in being able to start and submit client’s Basic Payment Scheme claims have failed to be addressed.

The new submission process will be a mixture of the new online system, mapping using paper RLR maps and paper ‘BP5’ forms. Claimants will be divided into a four tiered system as follows:

Straight forward – this will encompass some 39,000 claimants who have (according to the RPA) little or no change on their land since their 2014 SPS claim. These farmers will be ‘fast-tracked’. They will receive an email outlining their land uses and then just have to reply to confirm that the information is correct; no BP5 form will need to be submitted.

Relatively straightforward – where farmers do not have a large number of field parcels and data can be added onto a blank BP5 form.

Large claims – these claimants with large amounts of parcels and lots of changes are advised to wait for a prepopulated BP5 form.

Complex – these will be the highest level of complexity where the RPA will be offering assistance to agents and farmers when submitting the claims.

For anyone who thinks they may be a ‘Large’ or ‘Complex’ claim we advise that claimants act fast to gather as much information as possible on land uses such as cropping, and features such as hedges, areas of trees and water courses and ditches if you haven’t already done so.

The new blank BP5 forms will be available from Monday 23rd March 2015 on the GOV.UK website. It is advisable for all claimants to look at these new forms to familiarise yourself with the process and understand what is needed on the submission.

Entitlement transfers and land and mapping changes are to be made by way of RLE1 forms as before, however we are currently unsure of deadlines for these and if the entitlement transfer window will also be pushed back to 15th June.

What farmers need to do now:

  1. Make sure you have registered on the new online service
     
  2. Begin to gather important information about your claim so the mapping process is as easy as possible. This includes cropping schedules and features such as woods and watercourses.
     
  3. Establish what you need to do with regard to entitlements, if you have excess do you need to sell, a deficit, buy some?
     
  4. Don’t leave it to the last minute!!!

Sheldon Bosley are here to offer advice and assistance but please come to us in plenty of time!

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Active Farmer Status – Basic Payment Scheme

tractor in field‘Active Farmer Status’ is a new criteria that we are all becoming more familiar with as updates are published and as we approach the 15th May deadline.  This requirement will affect farmers who have claimed over 5,000 euros for SPS 2014 (£3,850 GB Sterling).

The rules for Active Farmer status have recently been confirmed and updated by DEFRA.  Many will be aware from our previous posts and seminars, the EU have decided to create five “undeserving” categories to limit claimants.  These five categories are as follows:-

·     Airports

·      Railways

·      Water companies

·      Real Estate Services

·      Permanent Sport or Recreational facilities

Airports and railways are only likely to be caught if they are running scheduled services for the public.  Water companies are only affected if they are one of the 27 designated companies.  The last two are more likely categories which may find some farmers “undeserving”.

blue sky fieldThe definition of a ‘Permanent Sport or Recreational Ground’ was confirmed in the October update from DEFRA to include grounds that are dedicated and kept throughout the year for sporting or recreational use, or grounds that include one or more permanent structures used so people can take part in a sport or recreation (or spectators).

Real estate services refer to professional property developers, real estate agencies, natural or legal persons managing real estate on a fee or contract basis.
BPSIf you are found to be “operating” such an activity, you may be considered “undeserving” of Basic Payment.  The definition of “operating” under the Active Farmer rule means to make decisions on how the non-agricultural activities of the business function, therefore a farmer may be considered the operator of an activity although it does not take place on his land.  In practise an Active Farmer may work for a Company operating a non-agricultural activity such as a Real Estate Service, however, it will be the Company that is operating not the individual.

There remains opportunity for anyone carrying out one of the five non-agricultural activities to ensure they remain eligible to make a claim in 2015 and thereafter.  The first of the readmission criteria is that annual payments for SPS or BPS (including the greening payment and any young farmer payment) are at least 5% of the total non-agricultural receipts in the most recent financial year.  The second readmission test has recently been updated so that if total agricultural receipts are at least 40% of the total receipts in the most recent financial year (this is increased from 15% as previously stated) the claimant will be readmitted into the scheme.  The third criteria, which will bring much relief to all farmers who have been at risk, states that if a claimant has at least 36 hectares of eligible land they will requalify for the Basic Payment Scheme.

Sheldon Bosley January 2015 BPS Workshop inviteThe consequence of the latest changes seem to allow readmission of almost all of the previously “undeserving” applicants, to the extent that there seems little point having the ‘Active Farmer’ test at all.  It is often difficult to fathom the basis of many EU regulations, the Basic Payment Scheme being no different.

Good Luck to all seeking to claim Basic Payment in this first year of the scheme.  For any who need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the Sheldon Bosley team or come along to our Workshop on January 21st.

 

Ted Beale

Rural Surveyor

Stratford upon Avon

ebeale@sheldonbosley.co.uk

01789 292310

 

Sally Pentreath

Rural Advisor

Shipston-on-Stour

spentreath@sheldonbosley.co.uk

01608 661666

www.sheldonbosley.co.uk

 

 

 

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Identity Assurance Scheme

identity profile set up identity assurance scheme The new identity assurance scheme is coming into play this autumn and is essential for anyone proposing to claim any agricultural subsidy, including the new Basic Payment Scheme. This new system creates a secure way for individuals to sign into all government services, so not only the new Basic Payment Scheme but also for paying car tax for example. This will replace the current Government Gateway – and SPS Online.

Registration begins with the creation of an “identity profile” through an identity authorising company, such as Experian, Verizon or the Post Office. After being asked a series of questions proving your identity with forms of identification (e.g. passport, driving license or utility bills) you will be provided with an “identity profile”. This profile may be accessed by using a chosen username and password. One of the major changes likely to be introduced is the unique log in number which will be sent to your mobile phone. Every time you wish to log in via this service you will receive another unique log in code via your mobile. It is unclear at present what will happen to users who do not have a mobile phone, can you nominate someone? Will it be sent to a landline and read out over the phone? These are some of the questions that still have to be answered before the scheme can become live.

photo driving licence for identity registration basic payment schemeHaving registering as an individual, you will be able to link this to your farming business, and subsequently authorise an Agent.  This new system adds further complication and challenge to the transition to the forthcoming Basic Payment Scheme, particularly for farmers with little internet access or no computer.

Help will be available for those who are not ‘digital’, and Sheldon Bosley are ready to assist any landowners who would like support through this registration process.