HUNDREDS OF farmers have yet to take the very first step towards securing their share of billions of pounds in payments from the European Union.
Latest figures from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) reveal that there are still around 1,400 farmers in the region who have yet to complete online registration as a necessary first step to applying for subsidies under the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
According to the government agency, some 800 farmers in North Yorkshire still need to register their details, as well as 279 in West Yorkshire, 180 in the East Riding and another 143 in South Yorkshire.
An RPA spokesman said: “Although the deadline for BPS applications is now 15 June 2015, we would still advise farmers to get their claims started as early as they can so we can give them the help and support they may need.
“Our priority continues to be ensuring farmers have time to submit their BPS claims.”
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said farmers must not be put off from registering, despite any confusion after problems with the RPA’s new £154 million online computer system.
When it was announced last month that the online application process had been hit by “performance problems”, industry leaders and MPs raised fears over a repeat of the 2005 fiasco. Then, a move to streamline EU payments to farmers under the pre-cursor to BPS - the Single Payment Scheme - backfired and left many farmers waiting months longer than they had been promised for their payments.
Since then the Government has taken closer control of the RPA and despite the current IT failures the RPA has promised that it will be able to make payments to farmers when the payment window opens in December this year.
With the online application process having failed, farmers are now filling in paper forms which must be returned to the RPA by an extended deadline of June 15. The applications by approximately 39,000 farm businesses with little changes to report to their land will be fast-tracked.
Nevertheless, farmers must still register using the Rural Payments website to initiate their application for claims this year.
Richard Pearson, regional director for the NFU in Yorkshire and the North East, said: “Even though we have moved to a paper assisted application process, everyone still needs to register with the online system, now called Rural Payments, this hasn’t changed. This is not just important for claiming under the Basic Payment Scheme, but also if you have any agri-environment or forestry schemes that apply to your land.
“I don’t think the confusion over the BPS application process will have helped, but we need to get the message out there just how important it is to register as soon as possible with the RPA as failure to do so will prevent you making an application for any rural payment schemes.
“Registering is quite straightforward and does not have to involve using a computer at all. A simple call to the RPA is all that is required.”
Farmers can register either online at www.gov.uk/rural-payments or by calling the RPA hotline number on 03000 200301.