RPA to issue advance BPS payments to farmers

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has confirmed farmers will be issued the first instalment of BPS advance payments tomorrow (1st August), representing up to 50% of annual direct payments.

For the first time, the RPA will be making the majority of payments on a single day, as opposed to last year when payments started in July and concluded in August.

The change has been made as a result of industry feedback and is intended to provide certainty to farmers, according to RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell.

In 2022, Defra has also made the decision to issue payments in two instalments each year for the remainder of the agricultural transition period. Around 50% of the overall payment is being made now to help offset cost increases and complement summer cashflow, with the remaining balance expected from December.

While most farmers can expect to be paid on time, a small number of claims will require additional checks and a longer processing time. The RPA will be in touch with these customers to inform on the next steps and aims to maximise the number of farmers receiving their advance payment by the end of August.

To avoid delays, farmers are encouraged to check their personal and bank account details are up to date through the Rural Payments service.

Both advance and balance payments will reflect progressive reductions applied as BPS continues to be phased out as part of the agricultural transition. This was introduced to make the transition away from direct payments as smooth as possible for farmers with BPS set to end by 2027.

In its place, environmental land management schemes and a range of innovation and R&D grants will be providing farmers with future financial support.

The 2023 round of the Sustainable Farming Incentive will start accepting applications from August, offering 23 actions to cover existing themes such as soil health and moorland, as well as new actions on hedgerows, integrated pest management, nutrient management, farmland wildlife, buffer strips, and low input grassland.

Applications are currently open for the 2024 Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier agreements. The scheme gives farmers and land managers the opportunity to be paid for environmental work alongside sustainable food production, from restoring wildlife habitats and managing woodlands, to mitigating flood risks.

32,000 Countryside Stewardship agreements are now in place across England – a 94% increase in uptake since 2020 – including nearly 26,000 Mid Tier agreements.

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