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Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) Update – August 2016

We are now thinking about 2017 BPS claims as harvest nears an end and farmers are planning their 2016/2017 cropping.

Unfortunately, some claimants are still waiting to hear back from the RPA in respect of payment queries for 2015 and land and entitlement transfers from 2015 and 2016 claims.   It would appear that the RPA are in turmoil and cannot provide answers when they are contacted to find out what is happening.  This is now causing delays in respect of transferring land and entitlements for the 2017 claim, as this facility is now not available on line and people are cautious to use paper RLE 1 forms when there is an outstanding transfer or query.

Greening Requirement

As the European Commission have not yet confirmed the BPS greening rules that will apply for the 2017 claim year, the RPA cannot publish full guidance.  This is anticipated to be available in early 2017.  Therefore, the 2016 BPS guidance still needs to be used, but the following potential changes to the rules are being discussed:

  • A compulsory ban on the use of pesticides on EFA NFC’s
  • Increasing the minimum period for EFA fallow from the current 6 months to 9 months
  • Increasing the minimum duration of an EFA catch or cover crop to be in the ground to 10 weeks
  • Increasing the minimum width of an EFA buffer strip from 1 metre to 2 metres

DEFRA recognises that farmers are already committed to cropping plans for 2017 and any changes for the 2017 claims would be impractical.  Further meetings are being held in Brussels and we await further updates.

It looks unlikely that the EFA area requirement will increase from 5% to 7%.

2015 Payment Issues

The RPA have announced that the majority of 2015 claimants have now been paid in full or have received a bridging payment.  This should have been followed up by the RPA sending out a claim statement to the claimant.  Unfortunately, the RPA cannot provide a parcel by parcel breakdown on the BPS claim statements as they did on the SPS claim statements, which made it a lot easier to check and spot any errors.  The new BPS system does not allow the RPA to breakdown this information and this is being looked into.

Common land claimants have experienced the usual issues and delay in payments, resulting in a bridging payment being made that excludes their payment relating to their common land allocation.  Again, The RPA are working through these and the glitches in the new system relating to common land allocation.

Those claimants who have raised an issue with the RPA in respect of an over or underpayment should have now received an acknowledgement from the RPA stating that they are looking into the query.  The RPA aims to complete the reconciliation work by the 15th October 2016, which is the end of the EU financial year.  Once the reconciliation payment has been made or recovered, a revised claim statement should then be sent out.  There will be no correspondence sent out explaining why an error has occurred, it will be up to claimants to check the revised claim statement and look at their on line account to check that the changes have fed through.  If at this point errors are spotted this needs raising again with the RPA.

BREXIT – Future Funding

On the 22nd August 2016 The Chancellor of the Exchequer. Philip Hammond made a Treasury statement which included “The government will also match the current level of agricultural funding until 2020, providing certainty to our agricultural community, which play a vital role in our country.  We are determined to ensure that people have stability and certainty in the period leading up to our departure from the EU and that we use the opportunities that departure presents to determine our own priorities”.

This means that funding under CAP Pillar 1 will be upheld until 2020.  This includes payments for BPS, BPS Greening and the Young Farmer Payment.

The guarantee for Pillar 1 money does not cover payments made under Pillar 2 of the CAP.  However, the Treasury announced that agri environment schemes signed before the Autumn statement would be fully funded.  There were concerns that the UK withdrawal could potentially trigger use of “exceptional circumstances” clauses in existing agreements.

We are still waiting for further certainty in respect of new Countryside Stewardship agreements that are currently being worked on and submitted for Mid Tier and Higher Tier applications, which would have a 1st January 2017 start date.  This is because they may not be “signed before the Autumn Statement”.  This now rests on when the Autumn Statement will be announced and Natural England and the RPAs ability to process applications.  Therefore, applications that are currently being worked on may still be at risk of not being offered an agreement.

Unfortunately, the date for the Autumn Statement is still not known.  When originally introduced, they were given in October.  Recently they have been given in late November / early December.

For further information please contact:

[team-member name=”Lucinda Riddell”]

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