Farming and agricultural businesses can now apply for 2021 payments under the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), it has been announced.
Designed to support farmers across the European Union, the BPS was launched after the introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 1962.
But now that the UK has officially left the single market, the Government is free to introduce a new system that is “tailored to the interests” of British farmers.
While much of the scheme will remain the same, direct payments will be gradually reduced and replaced by new grants and schemes – such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery – to boost farmers’ productivity and “reward environmental improvement”.
Commenting on the changes, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “We are undertaking the biggest change to agricultural policy in half a century, tailored to the needs of our farmers. I understand that some will be feeling anxious about the future.
“That is why we are making changes in a gradual way, and progressively reducing Direct Payments whilst we develop our new schemes.
“Farm resilience support is available to farmers throughout the first three years of the agricultural transition period, to help those most affected by the phasing out of Direct Payments. This will support the choices of individual farm enterprises, and help them plan for the future.”
The window for applications is open between March and May every year, with payments beginning in December.
To apply, you must own at least five hectares of agricultural land and have five ‘entitlements’. Once accepted under the scheme, there are certain rules you must follow to receive payments. For example, arable farmers might need to grow three different crops and use five per cent of their land to do specific things that are good for the environment.
To make it easier for farmers to apply this year, the application system has been simplified and several redundant measures have been removed, such as the greening requirements.
Announcing the launch of the 2021 window, Rural Payments Agency (RPA) Chief Executive Paul Caldwell said: “I know how important cashflow is to rural and farming businesses. We will continue our commitment to ensuring timely payments to farmers and land managers but would urge you not to leave things until the last minute.
“We will continue to build on our recent performance while preparing ourselves to supporting farmers across the country as we move towards a greener future.”
The claim windows for the Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) revenue agreements have also opened this week.
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