The Department of Agriculture reports that as of Tuesday evening, 38,976 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications have been submitted. This represents 29.98% of all applications, which is broadly in line with the corresponding period in recent years.

Farmers are being advised to submit applications promptly, with current coronavirus restrictions around face-to-face meetings with advisers and consultants likely to remain in place for quite some time.

In particular, farmers with significant changes to their application are advised to make contact early, to ensure there is ample time to work through these and also allow for correspondence to be shared by email or post.

Reports indicate a significant percentage of applicants avail of the “No Land Change” facility, whereby a number of screens are skipped, bringing the applicant from the starting screen to the final screen quickly.

The Department advises that where this is being used, applicants should still study the hardcopy of the BPS maps and land details received in the post to ensure all details are as they should be.

Safeguarding progress

The Department also advises applicants who have carried out a significant volume of work on their application not to delay in submitting it.

This is due to the fact that if there are any changes to land parcels, they can reset the application, causing all works completed to be lost, even where the progress to that stage has been saved.

The advice in such instances – where a significant volume of work has been completed but where some information is still outstanding – such as land rental agreements for example, is to submit the application and carry out an amendment if required.

Entitlements position

The other area highlighted for attention is to ensure there are no entitlements that were unused in 2020 which will revert to the National Reserve if unused in 2021. This information is detailed on the first page of the online application in the bottom left of the screen.

A statement of your entitlements can also be reviewed on the BPS homepage. There have been some queries from farmers regarding a reduction in entitlement values in 2021 and whether there is an error on their application.

While the unit value of entitlements is rolling over to 2021 as part of the transitional arrangements to the introduction of the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the unit value of all payment entitlements has been reduced by 2.05%, as part of the Multi-Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations, to take account of a lower level of funding available.

Straw Incorporation Measure

The recently announced Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM), which has a total fund of €10m available for 2021, can be applied for via the BPS application since 22 March. The closing date for applications is the same as for the BPS, 17 May 2021. Applicants who had submitted their BPS application before the scheme opened can amend their application, ensuring it is submitted by 17 May. Amendments can be made to applications in the same manner as the BPS, up to and including the 31 May deadline date for BPS amendments.

Organic Farming Scheme

Applicants that are submitting an application to the Organic Farming Scheme also have to take account of this on their 2021 BPS application. Ticking the relevant box on the homepage will load additional screens, which require the land parcels being converted or in organic farming status to be identified.