Farmers and land managers now have until 15 June to apply for BPS payments and to claim funding for their environmental and woodland work under other schemes. Charlotte Cunningham reports.

The Government has confirmed the window to submit applications for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and make a claim for Countryside Stewardship (CS), Environmental Stewardship (ES) and woodland legacy revenue payments will be extended by one month.

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.

Farmers and land managers are still encouraged to submit claims and applications, in particular online for BPS and CS through the Rural Payments Service, as soon as they are able to, with a large number already received by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

The RPA will continue to monitor the situation carefully and consider if further measures are needed to support farmers. Applications for new CS Higher Tier and Mid Tier agreements are still being accepted ahead of their respective deadlines of 1 May and 31 July 2020.

RPA Chief Executive Paul Caldwell said: “We’re fully focused on making vital payments to the rural community and helping customers submit their claims and applications during this difficult time.

“We know the coronavirus is causing issues where farmers are unable to meet their agents, so we are making this extension to allow more time for the farming community to submit their applications and claims without penalty.

“I would urge farmers and their agents to complete their applications and claims as soon as they are able to, using the Rural Payments Service in the first instance.”

In addition the period for amending your claim without penalty has also been extended to 30 June 2020 with final submission of applications and claims now to be with the RPA by 10 July 2020.

All applicants can quickly update their personal and business information and apply or claim through the Rural Payments Service, where farmers and their agents can also view and transfer their entitlements and land parcels.

Natural England and Forestry Commission staff are continuing to provide advice by phone or video call for land managers developing Higher Tier applications in time for the 1 May application deadline, so that schemes can be progressed in the absence of a site visit.

Natural England will also be supporting Mid Tier applicants through an off-farm advice programme whereby applicants can contact an adviser and book a clinic session. Applicants will receive advice on the options most appropriate to their holding and top tips on ensuring applications are correct.