The NFU is calling for a simpler application process and improved delivery for BPS 2017 as a new NFU survey results suggest that over 40,000 farmers (46 per cent of claimants) paid agents £20million to fill in BPS forms for them this year.
The NFU has major concerns over the increase of around 10,000 farmers using agents in just two years – an additional expenditure of £5million to agents at a time when the industry can ill afford it. The NFU is calling on Government, in particular Defra, to ensure RPA have the necessary resource to invest in the system and administration.
The NFU said it is in a good position to influence the RPA’s processes to bring down the amount of money farmers are collectively paying to agents for form-filling going forward.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “Our survey work should serve as an important reminder to the RPA that the application forms must be within farmers’ capabilities. It’s essential that the guidance, navigating the system itself and the administration are user-friendly.
“The basic principle of the BPS form is that it is designed for farmers to be able to complete it themselves. The fact that it has been so complex has forced many farmers to hand the form over to specialists to complete and this is unacceptable.
“The industry is suffering with current prices and the extra cost of a third party isn’t something 40,000 farmers would hand out with pleasure. This demonstrates a real problem. With the application window closing, the NFU is in position to be able to discuss the application system for next year.
“To be clear, we are not suggesting agents do not represent good value for money or that farmers should not use agents at all.
“On top of this we have a BPS 2015 ‘hangover’; we estimate there are over 20,000 queries relating to mapping, field data, coding and entitlements outstanding from BPS 2015. Our demand of Government is to make sure the RPA have the necessary resource to sort these issues out quickly and competently. Our estimate is there is £60 million that has not gone out this year because of application issues. This is yet more cost on our industry at a time it can ill afford it.”