The RuralPayments Agency (RPA) is inviting thousands more farmers and landownersthroughout England to take the first online step towards claiming this yearsnew scheme payments.
RPA CEO MarkGrimshaw, speaking at the NFU Council recently, announced a significant rampingup of the numbers invited to register on the new rural payments online service.
He also setout what farmers will be able to do and by when in order to start buildingtheir Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2015 claim and reaffirmed the RPAs commitmentto ensuring a package of support is in place to ensure all customers who wantto claim rural payments are able to do so.
This includedextended opening hours, including Saturdays and Sundays, for the rural paymentshelpline and the setting up of a network of 50 support centres across thecountry to help some farmers and landowners make their claim.
Mr Grimshawsaid: The new online service is designed to make it as simple as possible forfarmers and landowners to get their money under the new, changed single farmpayment rules.
Werecontinuing to release the service gradually so we can gather feedback andimprove the technology as we go. People can get started on the new service,checking their details and building their application, but wont be able tomake a complete claim until March.
Working withindustry partners we opened up the service to thousands of their members overChristmas and the New Year. Most recently was yesterday when I asked the NFU tobegin inviting 3,000 of their members a day onto the new service.
We wouldurge anyone who wants to make a claim to get registered as soon as they areinvited and we will take them through the journey with plenty of time to makechanges.
The newrules mean we have to gather lots of new information so the first year mighttake a bit of time for some, but, once all the information is in, subsequentyears will be a lot quicker. Details of what customers will be able to do andwhen can be found on the CAP Reform Blog.
Mr Grimshawexplained that at the end of last year the Agency was focussed on getting farmand land agents, representing about a third of all RPA customers, onto the newsystem. To date, more than 82 per cent of firms of agents have registered andare ready to start supporting their clients through the process.
As announcedlast September, RPA has also been assessing what sort of help customers may needto get online including a national network of 50 support centres wherecustomers will get one-to-one help with making a claim. These sessions are byappointment only so anyone who thinks they may need help should call the ruralpayments helpline on 03000 200 301 to discuss what is on offer.
Beforeaccessing the new online service for the first time, customers will also haveto prove they are who they say they are. There are two routes: the new digitalroute, GOV.UK Verify, which in time will enable them to access a range ofgovernment services as well as rural payments; and the RPA telephone identitycheck for existing Single Payment Scheme (SPS) customers which can be accessedvia the rural payments helpline.
Mr Grimshawsaid: Our plan is to continue to release the system gradually making moreelements of the service available week by week. Since mid-December thoseregistered or their agent have been able to register personal and businessdetails and start checking the data we hold on their maps and land. Farmers andlandowners have also been able to appoint an agent or someone else to act ontheir behalf.
Next monthis when the system will start to display things we think you need to check suchas land parcels, and youll be able to react and amend them. This includesadding information on land cover and usage.
From Marchyou can confirm entitlements and eligibility, and can complete and submit your2015 claims up until the 15 May. We will tell customers what they need to doand when they need to log back in.
I remaincommitted to ensuring that farmers have the ability to access all the fundingthat they are entitled to and I will endeavour to focus all of the resource atmy disposal to make this happen.
But if weare to achieve the outcomes we all want, we need to recognise that we all havea role to play and I would urge you and your fellow farmers to get involved nowand not leave things to the last minute.