Farm business consultant Brown & Co is expanding its Single Payment Scheme online application service, offering more farmers a quick, low-cost alternative to traditional paper claims.
The service will also help farmers gain experience of online application, which could become compulsory within a couple of years, says consultant Paul White of Brown & Co’s Spalding office.
“We are offering a two-level approach to any farmer who would like help, not just existing clients,” Mr White explains.
“The first option is form-filling only, useful to those farmers who have all their data in place but are unable to apply online, perhaps because they don’t have the expertise or broadband availability.
“The second option would involve Brown & Co completing the application, but also adding our advice and recommendations and checking that all the information is correct.
“This would suit new applicants or those who have bought or rented extra land where several transfers of entitlement are likely to complicate the process.” Farmers likely to encounter the key pitfalls (see table) might also benefit, he adds.
A typical medium sized farm with few complications would expect to pay the minimum £350 charge for the form-filling service. “Obviously a bigger farm needing a lot of advice would pay more.”
As well as saving the chore of form filling and ensuring forms are posted or hand-delivered on time, online application offers a range of additional benefits, Mr White said.
Simplified claim tracking – easy to follow and will suggest actions if there is a problem
Easy to view and download entitlements and claim statement
Update contact details with no fuss
Auto-reconciliation from one year to next
Ability to move fields to the correct holding numbers easily
Online information stored and easily viewed from one year to the next
No need for paper files
Online applications are gaining ground, Mr White points out. In 2010 approximately 14,000 of the 105,000 applications were made this way. In 2012 it was over 42,000.
“The RPA have intimated they would like to move all applications online, noting that, in response to the Farming Regulation Task Force, the government is committed to making greater use of online facilities. They are also tweeting regularly about the benefits (@ruralpay). We think they could do away with paper applications from 2015.
“Two-thirds of our clients have gone down this route. As a firm we have experienced no problem at all and would encourage farmers who don’t use it to take advantage this year.”
All Brown & Co’s offices will offer the online service, ensuring farmers never have to travel too far to take advantage of it. Contact details are available at www.brown-co.com - click on Agricultural Business Consultancy then Contacts.