FARMERS have been advised to prepare themselves for a visit from Rural Payment Agency (RPA) inspectors.

Emma Smith, rural chartered surveyor with YoungsRPS, said now the May 15 deadline for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims has passed it is important that they are prepared for on-farm inspections - especially those checking that crop diversification and EFA areas are as declared on the BPS claim.

She said: "The BPS Crop Diversification and EFA period runs until June 30 but claimants must continue to Cross Comply for the whole of the scheme year up to December 31."

The RPA carries out inspections on a selection of holdings each year. Some are chosen at random, while others are chosen solely based on risk factors such as large numbers of animal movements, new holdings and the results of previous inspections.

Subsidy payments make a significant contribution to farm incomes, yet Cross Compliance and Agri-Environment scheme breaches frequently occur. Inspections can be triggered, and loss of payments incurred because these can now be flagged digitally.

Emma said: "Inspectors can be on site often with only 48 hours’ notice, so it is key to ensure you keep up to date with the requirements. First of all, it is paramount to find out what type of inspection is going to be carried out before the inspector arrives. This will determine what the inspector needs to look at on the ground and the farm records you will need to have to hand."

There are four main areas to consider in advance of the inspection taking place.

Cross Compliance: Cross Compliance rules apply for the whole calendar year, across the whole area of a claimant’s holding and to all agricultural activities. The land must be maintained in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) and adhere to Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) for livestock records, animal welfare, boundaries, feed storage, NVZs and pesticide storage.

Livestock inspections: a major area where non-compliance breaches take place is over livestock identification and movement regulations. Inspections can include head counts, tag reading, heard/flock register record and movement reporting, as well as checks against the BCMS Cattle Tracing System and the Animal Reporting and Movement Service (ARAMS) for sheep. If there are significant errors, this can result in a whole herd/flock movement restrictions. Any welfare issues are referred to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Basic Payment Scheme: land eligibility, including recording and Permanent or Temporary Ineligible Features are looked at in this inspection. They will also complete Boundary checks to determine that parcels are correctly identified. As the cropping period runs until June 30, checks are likely to be made prior to this to see if Crop Diversification and EFA areas are as declared on the BPS claim. Another area to take note of, and which may also be reviewed, is evidence for Young Farmer and New Farmer claims.

Stewardship: inspectors check the area and location of permanent and rotational options under ELS, HLS and CSS. Agreement documents detail the management activities you need to carry out for each option, so you need to check they have been completed. You may also be required to keep records including stocking diaries, fertiliser and pesticide applications as well as details of supplementary feeding.

Emma Smith said: "With any inspection the Devil is in the detail, so to minimise the chance of any issues, ensure that you know what records are required for all of your enterprises and schemes; have agreement and option records up-to-date and close at hand; save copies of claims, declarations or other agreement-related documents; keep receipts, invoices or other supporting information together; report livestock births, deaths and movements as soon as possible."