THE Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims submission period opened yesterday (March 12) with a deadline of May 15.

Hannah Maynard, graduate surveyor with H&H Land & Estates in Durham, said this was also the deadline for transferring land parcels and entitlements.

There will only be a minor change for BPS this year in that it will be funded by the UK Government, rather than the EU. Farmers should expect to receive payment from December 1 to June 30, 2021.

Miss Maynard said applicants should use the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) website, wherever possible. The service can be used to apply for rural grants and payments, including BPS, update personal and business details, check and update digital maps of land and give someone permission to act on your behalf, such as a land agent.

Even if not yet applying, it is worth being prepared and checking that all is in order to avoid delays when the time comes.

Changes can still be made after the May 15 submission deadline. Some changes to the application can be made without attracting penalties to June 1. The absolute deadline for changes is June 9, but this will see the claimant attract a penalty.

The Scheme rules are the same as 2019, but it is important applicants read the guidance provided on the www, website carefully to ensure they are compliant, such as:

n Greening: what needs to be done to meet the greening rules each year will depend on how much arable land you have - farms that are more than 75 per cent grassland are exempt. The RPA provides a useful 'Greening Booklet';

n Crop diversification: depending on the amount of arable land you have, you may need to grow at least two or three crops, amounting to certain acreages, to meet the crop diversification rules;

n Ecological Focus Area (EFA): to meet the rules, your total area of EFA - which is made up of features such as hedges and buffer strip - must add up to the equivalent of at least five per cent of your total eligible arable land. You should remember that different features have different 'weighting' to count towards EFA;

n Important dates: key dates to note are the crop diversification and fallow period from May 1 to June 30. Also, hedges, buffer strips and field margins must be present all year.

Miss Maynard, said: "Looking forward, 2021 to 2027 will be a transition period, where BPS payments will be reduced each year, and to zero by 2028. There has been a suggestion that a claimant’s remaining years’ BPS payments could be taken as a lump sum, but the details on this so far are limited.

"Looking further ahead, a new Government Scheme is proposed to replace both BPS and Countryside Stewardship, which will probably be available from 2025. We do not yet have many details as to how this Scheme will operate so advise all farmers and landowners to regularly review emerging policy and seek professional advice. We advise all businesses to consider the natural capital of their assets; this is likely to be important."