WITH the Single Application Form (SAF) window for claims of Common Agricultural policy support cash opening today (Friday, March 15) NFU Scotland is encouraging crofters and farmers to prioritise filling out their forms online before the May 15 deadline.

A combination of Brexit uncertainty, spring work, lambing and calving means that many farmers and crofters will have many other things occupying their minds at this busy time of year. The union is urging applicants to crack on and start filling out their SAF as soon as possible and reminding them that, as things stand, it is business as usual for all CAP schemes.

The online application process has seen significant improvements in recent years and the clear majority of applications are now made online. By submitting applications online, farmers benefit from the system flagging up any errors before they formally submit their application.

As such, paper forms will not be automatically posted out and must instead be requested from local area offices. Individuals can also go to their local office where staff will be on hand to assist those completing their form online.

NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “Brexit chaos and confusion are dominating the headlines and generating uncertainty. The crucial thing for all farmers and crofters to bear in mind is that, as things stand, it is business as usual for all CAP schemes and that includes completing this year’s SAF.

“The SAF window, which will run from March 15 to May 15, will be punctured by Brexit headlines but we don’t want anyone to inadvertently be distracted from this important process.

“SAF forms are the most important forms that Scottish farmers fill out every year and I would encourage all members to begin working on their forms as soon as possible to ensure they meet the May 15 deadline," said Mr McCornick.

“For the second year, paper forms will not be automatically sent out by post, with the Scottish Government continuing to encourage claimants to complete their SAF online. A change to online from paper application has real benefits for those who are able to, as it checks for errors throughout the process which allows speedier processing for this vital support.

“It’s worth the effort and you will get an acknowledgement of receipt at the time of submission," he added. "Local Area Offices offer valuable support and farmers and crofters should consider booking an appointment where staff can assist them in completing their SAF online.

“Whether you are happy to switch to online or are sticking to paper, the important thing is to take plenty of time and not leave it to the last minute. Remember, it is the most important day’s work in any farmer’s year.”