Farmers Urged to Check their RPA Payments

"Hangover" mistakes from 2015 are hindering this year's applications, according to agricultural experts at Thomas Westcott Chartered Accountants.

Farmers may have received incorrect payments from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) after being wrongly penalised under new EU regulations.

The warning comes in the wake of an announcement by the CEO of the RPA Mark Grimshaw that farmers who have not received their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) cash by the end of the month will receive 50 per cent "bridging payments".

Sally Nicholls

Sally Nicholls

However, even if farmers have received their BPS payment, experts in the region are urging them to go back and check their claim statements after numerous incidents of incorrect payments were uncovered.

Sally Nicholls, consultant in the Agricultural Team at Thomas Westcott Chartered Accountants, said: "We're finding many instances where claimants have received their payments, but have also had penalties applied for breaching EU regulations, such as greening measures, even though they are clearly exempt of those rules.

"In one case I've just dealt with the farmer had been completely unaware that he'd been underpaid by several thousand pounds, which is why we're urging all claimants to go back and check their claim statements carefully."

Under new EU rules, and depending on the type of farming in which they are involved, farmers must either set aside five per cent of their land as an "Ecological Focus Area" or abide by crop diversification measures, referred to as "Greening".

Failure to comply with Greening can carry a heavy penalty, in some cases up to 30 per cent of a farmer's subsidy according to DEFRA.

"There are exemptions though," continued Sally Nicholls, "however we're hearing from farmers whose operations are clearly exempt and yet still they have been penalised unfairly."

She added:
"With margins being squeezed and cash flows increasingly difficult to manage this additional pressure on the farming community is happening at the worst possible time.

"At this time of the year I would expect to be helping clients apply for their 2016 BPS applications, yet we're still dealing with the mistakes and hangover of 2015, so we're urging those claimants who have received payments to check their statements as soon as possible with their professional advisers to identify any incorrect payments and take appropriate action to rectify the situation."

Thomas Westcott

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