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

“Farmers shouldn’t sigh with relief now that the deadline for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims has passed, because it is now particularly important to be prepared for on-farm inspections, which can be sprung on you with only 48 hours’ notice,” said Emma Smith, rural chartered surveyor for Hexham-based YoungsRPS.

“There is no escape. The RPA keep information digitally, computers can flag irregularities, so the key is to be prepared.”

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

“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.

“You could be asked to provide copies of claims and declarations, so make sure to keep hold of these.”

There are four main areas to consider in advance of the inspection taking place, Emma said, cross compliance, livestock inspections, stewardship and the scheme itself.

Emma said: “It is important for farmers to remember that as the cropping period runs until June 30, checks are likely to be made by the RPA prior to this to see if crop diversification and Ecological Focus Areas are as declared on the BPS claim.”