The RPA has announced a one month extension to the deadline for applications for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and claims for Countryside Stewardship, Environmental Stewardship and woodland legacy revenue payments.
On the face of it, that is a positive, pragmatic step, and to be welcomed. However, some farmers (who, as keyworkers, are vital to food supply and therefore a critical part of the COVID-19 response) are still waiting for payment of their 2019 claims. Although the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that the net impact on agriculture of the COVID-19 crisis is overall likely to be broadly neutral, at this time more than ever cash flow is stretched. Challenges are created by the absence of labourers (my colleague Huw Cooke has highlighted this in his blog) in a market that was already feeling a Brexit chill, plus social distancing and supply chain challenges.
While some application breathing space is welcome, really the best possible supportive measures might be expediting the payments (the remainder of the 2019 payments and dealing rapidly with the 2020 claims) so claimants don’t go under while they wait, and ensuring that help and guidance on what can be a pretty convoluted application process, is provided upfront to avoid later dispute.
In light of the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, farmers and land managers will now have until 15 June to submit their applications without penalty. This will give farmers and their agents an extra month to submit applications and claims, helping them to avoid penalties for late applications.