By NFUS CAP schemes general manager, Jenny Brunton

“The current uncertainty in the country around Coronavirus and future trade as we transition out of the EU, combined with the pressures of spring work, lambing and calving, means that many farmers and crofters will have other things on their mind at this busy time of year.

“However, equally important for various reasons at this time of the year is focusing on the BPS 2020 application as it is business as usual for all CAP schemes.

“Preparation is key so here are my top 10 pointers for SAF 2020.”

  • Don’t delay! The 2019 BPS application window is now open, and the application deadline is 15 May, with payments expected to be issued from 1 December.
  • It is business as usual with the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). The SAF window, which runs from 15 March to 15 May, will be punctured by worrying headlines but don’t be inadvertently distracted from this important process. It is key to remember that BPS will operate for the full 2020 calendar year and this means that there is still a requirement to comply with cross compliance and greening rules for the remainder of this year.
  • Get online early if you can. The online application process has seen significant improvements in recent years and the vast majority of applications are now made online. A change to online from paper application has real benefits for those who can, as it checks for errors throughout the process which allows for speedier processing. It’s worth the effort and you will get an acknowledgement of receipt at the time of submission. 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. And remember - the Scottish Government has announced that from 2022, all SAF applications must be made online.
  • Don’t wait on the post. Paper forms are now not automatically sent out by post, with the Scottish Government continuing to encourage claimants to complete their SAF online. Paper forms must instead be requested from Local Area Offices.
  • Manage your entitlements and your land parcels. Remember, if you are transferring entitlements or land to make any changes you need to by the 2 April. Also, sort out with others if land is changing hands and who claims. If you need to amend your land parcels please complete a Land Maintenance Form (PF06) and return it to your local area office before the 15 May.
  • Mapping changes have caused significant frustration in the past and Scottish Government has undergone substantial work to update land data through their new mapping system, Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS). It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure maps are correct so check the online maps and if anything needs to be corrected then submit a Land Maintenance Form (PF06). And note, now that the SAF window is open there should not be changes to online mapping unless you request it.
  • It always pays to know the rules. The updated scheme rules and how to apply online or by paper and any supplementary forms for SAF 2020 can be found at Basic Payment Scheme Full Guidance. The only way to understand the rules is to read this guidance. Also remember to gather any relevant supporting paperwork together to help with the application, for example for the Young Farmer Payment.
  • Get Greening right for 2020. Following an extended period of wet weather, the Scottish government has approved a derogation for Crop Diversification 2020. The two/three crop rules will not be implemented for the scheme year 2020. However, Ecological Focus Area and Permanent Pasture Greening requirements still apply. For full guidance visit Greening Guidance 2020
  • Don’t hedge your bets. With changes to the greening rules in 2018, many now use eligible hedges to make up the 5% EFA requirement. An EFA Hedge is a) any hedge having a length of at least 20 metres or a length of less than 20 metres where it meets another hedge at each end. Any gap of less than 20 metres is treated as being part of the hedge and b) a GAEC landscape feature and as such has no land cover and is fully eligible for BPS
  • Here to Help. Finally, don’t forget that NFUS is here to help and assist our members with any queries you may have. Contact NFUS CAP Schemes Policy Manager Jenny Brunton at jenny.brunton@nfus.org.uk or 0131 472 4053

Completing your SAF form is the most important day in the year for Scottish farmers and crofters and I would encourage all members to begin working on their forms as soon as possible to ensure they meet the 15 May deadline. Hopefully, these tips will make that as smooth and easy as possible.

(Original article can be found at www.nfus.org.uk)