The NFU in the North East is to hold a series of briefings for farmers across the region to update them on the latest developments affecting the application process for the new Basic Payment Scheme.
Ten sessions will be held over four days, giving NFU members the chance to hear first-hand from Keith Wellings, Common Agricultural Policy Guidance Lead with the Rural Payments Agency.
Mr Wellings will provide the latest information on what farmers need to do following the RPA’s decision, announced last week, to abandon the online-only application process.
NFU regional director Richard Pearson said that, although in the main farmers welcomed the decision - given the persistent problems with the online mapping tool - the move has left most unsure of what they need to do next.
He said: “When the announcement was made last week, a great many questions remained unanswered. As a result, this is now a very fast moving situation, with fresh information being released daily.
“We are working round the clock to get this information out to members and push the Government and RPA to resolve outstanding issues – but I think it’s fair to say we still have some significant concerns about how this is going to play out.”
He added that it was “good news” the application deadline has been extended by a month to June 15.
“But we are still urging our members to work towards the earlier date of May 15 as this will give the RPA more time to process the thousands of applications now due to be submitted using paper forms,” he said.
“Other welcome news announced by George Eustice in the House of Commons confirmed that farmers who managed to access the online mapping functions successfully will not have to repeat the process on paper.
“However, members tell us that the system has lost inputted information during its repeated ‘down’ periods, so we are seeking urgent clarification on that and a number of other outstanding issues.
“A key priority is to try and ensure that farmers’ critical support payments are not delayed beyond December.
“As a result I would urge all our members to book a place at one of the meetings we have planned. For obvious reasons we expect them to be very popular.”
The two-hour sessions will be held on April 1, at Jersey Farm Hotel in Barnard Castle, at 2pm then at Kirkley Hall, Ponteland, at 7.30pm.
The following day, a briefing will be held at Alnwick Rugby Club at 9am.
Sessions will also be held in Sheffield, Halifax, York, Whitby, Leyburn and Northallerton.
The meetings are open to all NFU members. To book a place, call Louise Knight on 01904 451550.