Many sheep farmers placed in ‘unreasonable position’ ahead of BPS application deadline

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has voiced disappointment this week that the sheep sector in England, which has already been disproportionately affected by the late arrival of money under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), is being hit again by inflexibility at the Rural Payment Agency (RPA).

sheep in field

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has voiced disappointment this week that the sheep sector in England, which has already been disproportionately affected by the late arrival of money under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), is being hit again by inflexibility at the Rural Payment Agency (RPA).

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “Claimants at the back of BPS queue are those with common land, those that received inspections and those affected by cross compliance penalties. Given the extensive nature of sheep farming and the continuing impossibility of meeting 100% sheep EID requirements, we believe a disproportionate number of farm businesses still waiting for money are those that run sheep.

“It is still not clear how the individuals affected are supposed to complete their 2016 paperwork ahead of the 16th May deadline, placing many of them in a hugely unreasonable position. Even if they wait until the last possible moment to make their application, there is still no guarantee they will have had sight of their 2015 payment schedule. We have unpaid members who strongly suspect there will be errors linked to that payment, yet there seems to be unwillingness at RPA to give them an alternative to submitting paperwork that they know will be wrong.”

RPA provided a statement to NSA last Friday (15th April) saying all BPS claimants must meet the Monday 16th May deadline but those receiving payment after submission could make penalty-free changes up until the end of May, with some changes also being allowed beyond this date. NSA is disappointed that, at this late stage, RPA is not accepting it is unreasonable to expect the 16th May deadline to hold, especially given that EU representatives have suggested Brussels would be open to considering extensions in specific circumstances.

“We are not suggesting an across-the-board extension, as we appreciate this will have consequences later in the year when payments need to be made,” Mr Stocker says. “But we do think those farmers specifically affected by failures in the system last year should be given a small amount of flexibility. Asking them to submit paperwork now and then revisit it later is doubling the workload at a very busy time of year.”

Given the unwillingness by RPA to provide flexibility, NSA urges all sheep farmers who have not yet submitted their application to make sure they do so before Monday 16th May.

Mr Stocker continues: “I appreciate it is a big ask for those people who are still in the dark about their 2015 payment, and is clearly unfair if you then need to revise the paperwork once you have been paid, but without RPA being prepared to seek an extension from the EU it is currently the only way to avoid financial penalties further down the line. I urge those seeking further guidance to contact RPA and make their views known.”

Information from RPA can be accessed at www.gov.uk/guidance/bps-2016 or on 03000 200301.

Mr Stocker concludes: “RPA has made assurances that we will not see delays like this again, and it is essential that every step is taken to ensure this is the case. NSA reiterates is strong view that those people put at the back of the queue last year, specifically those with grazing rights for common ground, should be given priority this year.”

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