At the time of writing this blog, the UK is in complete shutdown, due to the Coronavirus. The virus is clearly a worry for many people and the need to lockdown the country is entirely understandable.
It has however created some challenges for farmers and agents trying to complete the annual BPS applications this year. Commentators are split as to whether the Government will grant an extension to the 15th May deadline. Logic would suggest that an extension (as has been granted in Europe) would take some pressure off in completing the forms in these uncertain times. However, there is also concern that an extension to the deadline would have a knock-on effect and cause delays to the 2020 payments. There is already a concern that the RPA may struggle to make payments on time, given the fact that many of their staff are now working from home and that there has been a need to make changes to their systems to accommodate this.
A further complication is that the existing Environmental Stewardship Schemes that are currently in place (which also have a 15th May deadline for annual applications) are still administered under European legislation and are likely to have different deadlines to BPS applications. This does create potential for some complication and confusion when completing this year’s forms.
Even before Coronavirus surfaced in full, the RPA had already made changes to Crop Diversification requirements for this year’s application period. Following lobbying from farming organisations and in recognition of the wet winter and early spring, the RPA dropped the requirement to have three crops.
Brooks Leney’s land agency team undertake a significant number of BPS applications each year for clients and are well set up to deal with these remotely, either through telephone calls or video conferencing. If you would like any assistance in completing this year’s application, then please do contact one of our team, the details of which can be found here.