The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is expected to write to more than 20,000 farmers over the next few months to “persuade” them to submit their Single Farm Scheme applications online in 2014.
Moving claims online is becoming an urgent priority for the RPA as the new system, which will administer the replacement to the Single Payment Scheme in 2015, is being designed solely as an online service.
It’s not all bad news for the farmer who has previously filled in and returned the annual paper forms or for those who are wary of computers and IT systems. Submitting online has multiple advantages.
It is faster, more secure and, depending on the type of software used, can have numerous built-in safety checks.
In addition, the immediate receipt from an online submission may be a major factor in attracting claimants to submit online, simply for peace of mind.
This is the first year that many local RPA headquarters will actually turn away those handing in a paper claim form.
Although many agree they would rather receive better commodity prices for the products they sell than receive SPS monies and be bound by the subsequent cross-compliance checks, we cannot get away from the fact they are now a major part of most farming businesses.
Therefore, no risks or short cuts should be taken in securing this vital income.
Using a professional firm to submit your SPS claim can take the pain and worry out of the process and has further advantages over the basic online systems.
Not only is there someone to help you through the process but qualified agents will advise on your claim, submit it electronically and all of this is covered by professional indemnity insurance, which means should there be an error by the agent, the claimant is covered.
In addition, larger firms normally have a single case officer assigned to them to ensure that the agent can have greater contact and thus any queries arising are generally resolved quickly and efficiently.
Many people question paying for a professional agent, but the fact that so much money is at risk these days means the fees charged are a good investment (and insurance) against errors.
The additional benefit of using an agent is you will be kept up to date with changes to the scheme without having to wade through booklets full of information.
:: Helen Russell is a chartered surveyor at the Durham office of H&H Land and Property