David Morley, head of conservation and environment, at H&H Land and Estates, has shed light on the payments system to farmers.

“The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) began making Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments in December and since have helped 60,000 farmers nationally, which equates to a total of 92 per cent of payments due,” he said. “However, farmers with more complex claims, including those with common rights, may have had to wait longer”.

Mr Morely said the 2019 payments were announced by the RPA early in November, and remained in line with previous years; non-SDA £232.84 per ha, SDA £231.15 per ha, moorland £63.42 per ha.

He exlained that the RPA would issue a claim statement alongside the payment, showing how it was calculated. Farmers are urged to check this, as errors are still commonplace where mapping changes have been made throughout the year.

It has also been announced the RPA will now make one annual payment each year to Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreement holders, replacing the former 75 per cent/25 per cent split. The payment window for 2019 runs from December 2019 to June 2020, with many agreement holders having already received payment.

Most CS agreements are for five to 10 years, but all agreed capital works must be completed within the first two years and claimed by the following March. For agreements that started on January 1, 2018, all works should be completed and claimed before March 2020.

Mr Morely said: “It is critical not to miss the deadline, as the RPA will not pay out on late claims.”

It is expected that the RPA will once again run mid-tier and higher-tier schemes for Countryside Stewardship 2020, plus the Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant, but more details are expected next month.