Emily Pumfrey

+44 (0)1733 887644 erpumfrey@greenwoodsgrm.co.uk

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BPS help for flood hit farmers

Agriculture and rural business / 25 February 2020

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has offered guidance to farmers whose Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims are impacted by the severe weather. Many farmers depend on this government subsidy to supplement their farm income, and challenging weather conditions can make meeting the strict claim criteria difficult to achieve.

Our previous article offered advice and guidance to producers and growers who were unable to fulfil their contractual obligations to buyers due to the extreme flooding this winter. Since then, the country continues to be battered by bad weather, with storms Ciara and Dennis causing misery to millions up and down the country.

The Government has just announced a package of support for storm hit areas under the Flood Recovery Framework, offering hardship payments to flooded households, and tax reliefs and grants to impacted businesses. In terms of farmers and growers, the RPA has issued special guidance for those concerned about their BPS claims:

1. The current BPS Scheme (which is implemented under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and is set to be replaced by a completely new system under the post-Brexit Agriculture Bill) requires growers to have a certain amount of crop diversity, depending on the size of their farm. This is commonly known as the “three crop rule” and often drives a farmer’s crop-rotation and planting schedule for the years ahead. As well as additional requirements to maintain green spaces, field margins, and cover crops for wildlife, if a farm qualifies fully for the “greening” element; this can make up approximately 30% of a total BPS claim.

2. The wet weather has made drilling of spring crops impossible for some, and many farmers have had to quickly rethink their planned cropping to make the 2020 harvest a viable prospect.  This goes to show that the best laid plans can go to waste when you’re wholly dependent on the weather to run your business.

3. Depending on the impact of the flooding, the RPA has indicated that a force majeure claim may be made if you cannot meet the crop diversity requirement due to extreme weather conditions. To make a claim, you should collect evidence to show that spring crops cannot be grown on the land. The RPA will consider claims in the spring when the full impact of the weather can be properly assessed.

4. In addition, the RPA has stated that land that is temporarily flooded will remain eligible for BPS and can be claimed against in the usual way.

5. If the affected cropped area consisting of crops and temporary grass together makes up more than 75%, then the cropped area will be exempt from the crop diversification requirements in 2020.

6. DEFRA has also established the Farming Recovery Fund, where a claim may be made to recover additional costs incurred because of the severe weather.

It is good to see that the RPA and DEFRA are working to minimise the impact of the weather on farming where possible, but as always, there are many hoops to jump through to qualify for support and generally, in order to maximise the BPS claim available to each farm. The full guidance can be read here: RPA: Claiming BPS 2020 and greening payments in extreme weather (19 February 2020) and we would recommend consulting with a specialist farm or land agent if you have any concerns regarding your own BPS claim, or any other grants that may be available to you.

Our Agricultural and Rural Business and Disputes team have considerable industry specific experience in advising you on any issues arising from this article. Our Head of Agriculture and Rural Business, Emily Pumfrey, has a farming background which enables her to deal with issues in the sector in a practical and informative manner. Clients describe our agriculture team as “friendly and dynamic…striking the perfect balance between being approachable and giving first-class advice.”

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