The vast majority will now have received their 2017 payment so it is important to check that the payment was correct. The first thing to do is check your Claim Statement to see that the area you have been paid over matches what you submitted. If it doesn’t, you will need to submit a ‘payment query form’ which is available on the RPA website.
Checking your maps thoroughly will be a very important task this year as there has been a comprehensive updating of the RPA’s base mapping data in recent months. This was designed to just make sure all of the field data was up to date but unfortunately (as usual!), it hasn’t worked out quite how the RPA would have hoped. There are a few things to look out for:
· You should have had a message on your RPA online account telling you about which fields have been changed although there will be no information about exactly what changes have been made.
· Some of the changes will be very small, perhaps only a slight realignment of an existing boundary. These may not make any noticeable difference to the field shape or size so you probably won’t need to do anything.
· Some of the updates may have reversed changes to field boundaries you have made in recent years, even if you have previously notified the RPA about such changes. This is because the so called ‘up to date’ mapping information could still be several years old and won’t reflect more recent changes on the ground.
· Some permanent or temporary ineligible features may have been removed by the RPA if they don’t match the base mapping information they hold. You will need to make sure you add these features in again to ensure you are not over claiming.
· This is a good opportunity to check all your fields to make sure the mapping information the RPA hold, matches what is happening on the ground. Even if the RPA have got it wrong, it remains your responsibility to correct it and make sure that everything that goes on the form is complaint with the rules.
If you do find that your maps are incorrect, you will need to send the RPA sketch maps and an ‘RLE1’ form and amend the pre-printed information on your 2018 BPS submission.
There have been a few changes to Greening for 2018 that are worth looking out for:
· Land declared as ‘fallow’ for an Ecological Focus Area (EFA) now has more restrictions on it than before. It cannot be cultivated for weed control; grass can only be sown if it’s a requirement under a rural development scheme and no manure or fertiliser can be applied. Thankfully, you can continue to graze or mow the land after the end of the fallow period (1st January to 30th June).
· If you declare the same land as EFA fallow for five consecutive years, it will now revert to being declared as Permanent Grassland. In the past, it would have remained as temporary grassland so you may now want to consider rotating your fallow areas to avoid this issue.
· There has been a relaxation of one of the greening exemptions meaning that more will now benefit. If you are eligible it means that you don’t have to worry about crop diversification or having ecological focus areas. Previously, the rules meant that if you had more than 75% of your land as permanent grass and/or temporary grass and/or fallow, you were only eligible for the greening exemption if the remainder of your arable land was under 30ha. That 30ha limit has now been removed meaning that many larger farms will now benefit from the exemptions.
Land and Entitlement transfers
The ability to transfer land and entitlements opened up much earlier this year (15th January). If you have any to transfer I would recommend doing it as soon as possible so that you have plenty of time to check that it has been successful before you submit the main application.
Deadline for 2018
The submission deadline is 15th May 2018 and you should be able to start working on your claim online from mid-March.