While the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) moved to reassure the industry that it always intended to gradually introduce customers to the new section of its website, the NFU said farmers were not being given enough time to get used to the system before the start of the Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP) new Basic Payment Scheme.
Rosey Dunn, chairman of the NFU North East regional board, said: “In the next six months farmers will be grappling with the new rules and registration process for the new online-only application system. We see this as a major issue for farmers in our region and many will require training and ongoing support to successfully switch to online working. The NFU locally has identified a range of different ways to help members make the transition from drop-in centres to dedicated practical workshops, but without access to the necessary systems, it’s impossible to get these initiatives underway.”
Defra responded in a statement: “The new CAP Information Service will make managing an application simple and effective without the need to fill in paper forms. We’ve been gradually introducing customers to try the beta version, and we’re improving the system based on the feedback we are getting. Once we’re satisfied this feedback has been addressed we will continue to increase the number of customers invited to join. This has always been the plan.”
More customers will be invited to register through the autumn, it said.