The NFU says it is critical Government proves it has a robust new IT system in place to administer farm payments from next year.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said: The NFU is just starting its autumn workshops for members where we will be speaking to and hearing from thousands of members. Our initial impression is that members understand that the new application system will be very different and more complex but many of them are clearly haunted by memories from ten years ago where it wasn’t the farmer applicants that were found wanting but the systems put in place by Defra and the RPA.
“In the next six months or so, farmers and growers will be grappling with the new rules and a new registration process and online-only system of applying for payments.
“It is clear that farmers and growers are seeking reassurances from Defra. No-one should underestimate the challenges faced in switching to the new system.
The message from our members so far has also been clear We are getting to grips with the policy, but tell us what we need to do and when we can do it. In particular they are anxious to see the new Government Gateway registration process go live and are frustrated to be still waiting.
The new CAP will mean changes for all applicants and everyone will need time to adapt to that system, particularly to understand what additional information is required when it comes to greening.
Mr Smith said two key factors that would go some way to helping was to ensure that SPS 2014 claim validation was completed swiftly and the need for the RPA to be given the resources to ensure it can have sufficient numbers of trained staff in place to help with the transition.
The NFU has worked closely with Defra and the RPA on implementation and will continue to do so. We are pleased that the effort, resource, and engagement surrounding the IT is unrecognisable from the challenges we experienced as England shifted towards the flat rate in the last reform, he added.
However, only the mass rollout will truly test if what has been built is fit for purpose and time is running out for them to get the tools in place for this to happen. Next May seems a long way off, but given the enormity of this challenge we really would like to see significant progress on registration before the end of the year.