The NATIONAL Farmers Union NFU is urging the Rural Payments Agency to further simplify the Basic Payment Scheme application process, increase support to applicants and address ongoing communications failures.

A survey of NFU members shows that for the second year running too many had issues in applying for their BPS with almost half of members (48 per cent) struggling to submit their claims with ease.

The NFU believes these problems were magnified this year by erroneous mapping changes, incomplete and often inaccurate hedge data, and significant delays in getting assistance over the phone from the RPA.

NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said the survey shows farmers struggled with mapping and rule changes and called for better communication.

He added: "The theme of communicating better was top of the agenda when I met with the new RPA operations director Andy King last week and we both agreed to work together to ensure improvements are made to communications going forward.”

The NFU BPS survey ran from May 30 to June 2 based on a representative statistical sample of our membership. It surveyed 443 members on a range of questions around BPS 2018 and communication, behaviour and historical issues.

The NFU survey also showed a continuing trend towards online applications which is to be welcomed.

Mr Roberts added: “Online applications undoubtedly help the RPA when it comes to processing claims, however, the fact that too often members are struggling to submit their entire application electronically is an ongoing frustration.

“Many members this year have needed to submit paper mapping changes or produce covering letters to explain many aspects of their claim. All this additional information submitted by post puts further strain on stretched RPA resources.

“The ability to email the RPA supplementary documents would be a good step forward for next year. Being able to get through easily on the phone or perhaps an improved electronic correspondence system would also help members and the RPA alike.

“I hear too often about problems with the BPS process and I was particularly pleased to see significant numbers of those surveyed using their organisation to help them with BPS.

“I personally have heard members on numerous occasions highlight the excellent work we do in supporting applicants through the process and I would like to pay tribute to the NFU team for all its efforts.”