Support available over the phone for farm support payment applications
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
FARM charity Utass (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services) will again offer help to those requiring checks with their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application.
However, support will be offered over the phone rather than in person, due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.
Having now left the EU, the Government is beginning to reduce the amount farmers receive through the BPS.
For 2021, those in the lowest payment band (up to £30,000) will see a five per cent reduction, while those in the highest bracket (more than £150,000) will received 25 per cent less.
The Government aims to phase out the BPS by 2027. In its place will come an Environmental Land Management scheme to reward sustainable farming practices along with a farming investment fund offering grants for equipment, technology and infrastructure projects.
Utass farmers’ liaison worker Richard Betton said: “We had hoped that this year we could have resumed our usual practice of appointment in the office to check maps and complete the 2021 BPS application.
“However, the new Covid-19 lockdown is likely to cover some, if not all, of the application window for the 2021 application period running up to the deadline of May 15.
“It would be risky to wait for a lifting of restrictions, especially as this may not even materialise in time.”
Mr Betton added: “To protect both you and staff, we would like to conduct as much as possible of the business over the phone.
“We appreciate that the BPS claim is very important still to most farmers and that checking maps and other details over the phone is not idea, but we did manage to make it work last year and keep everyone safe.
Meanwhile, the upper dale’s farmers are to be asked for their views on the Government proposed post-Brexit changes.
Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has issued a new leaflet called Farming is Changing.
It outlines the main elements of how the strategy contained in last year's Agriculture Act will be delivered.
Mr Betton said: “It is very short on details but promises that these will be developed through consultation with the industry and other stakeholders.
“We would welcome comments and views from our members and will be contacting them at the appropriate time to make sure the views of Teesdale farmers are put forward to Defra.”
This year’s Utass user survey has been launched.
Farmers are asked a series of questions relating to their business and the support offered by the charity. The data also helps with Utass funding applications.
The results will form part of this year’s Utass annual meeting.
The survey can be completed online at bit.ly/UTASS2020SURVEY.