Since February, Brown & Co have been taking every reasonable step we can to ensure all our business is conducted in a way that minimises the risk of the spread of Covid-19 to our employees, customers, clients and contractors.

We can confirm all our offices and all our employees' working practices adhere to the government's Covid-Secure standards and safer working practices. We are 'Covid Secure'.

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Basic Payment Scheme Update

Applications to claim the new Basic Payment Scheme in 2015 will be on-line only and will require some preparation to achieve a smooth application process.   For those applicants who currently claim on-line, the system is changing and will require you to obtain new log-in details to gain access to the new system, which will be different to the one currently used through the Government Gateway.   This new system will require Farmers and other claimants to register, which may include third party authentication through a body such as Experian or the Post Office.   Agents will need to register in a similar way and Farmers will then need to select their Agent on the system in order for that Agent to access the Farmer’s details.   The new system is to be rolled out from early autumn and it is important that you obtain all the necessary log-in details and familiarise yourself with getting onto the system as soon as possible, in order that any problems may be rectified before May 2015.

The Ecological Focus Areas – this is currently the main area of concern for many farming businesses with harvest well under way and little time for office work and calculations to work out how they will satisfy the Ecological Focus Area requirement.   Indeed, the final rules and management prescriptions for the five possible elements of Ecological Focus Area have not as yet been announced, making the job all the more difficult.   We now know that buffer strips, fallow, catch crops, nitrogen fixing crops and hedgerows can count towards ecological focus area.   There is a warning with regard to hedgerows as it is possible that these will need to be physically checked on the ground by RPA Inspectors before payment can be made.

It is worth remembering that there are several exemptions from the Ecological Focus Area and crop diversification requirements of greening, particularly for those businesses with large areas of grassland in comparison to arable areas and also for businesses that take on large areas of new land each year.   It is therefore important to check these exemptions before calculating requirement for both measures of greening.

It has been announced that there will be an update published online on 11th August and it is hoped that this will provide sufficient information for farmers to make decisions for next year. Contact your local Brown & Co office for an update.

ELS/HLS Schemes – we now know that any ELS schemes which commenced after 1st January 2012 cannot use options within the scheme to meet the ecological focus area and indeed any dual funded options which are included within the ELS scheme, will have payments reduced.   Therefore, anyone with an ELS scheme commencing after 1st January 2012 will receive a letter in the next few months requesting confirmation of acceptance of a payment reduction, or giving one the opportunity to change their options, or withdraw from the scheme without penalty.   However, those businesses that have ELS schemes commencing before 1st January 2012 or have HLS schemes with any start date may use the eligible options within those schemes to count towards their Ecological Focus Area requirements.   A word of warning would be to ensure that if you intend to use your stewardship options for Ecological Focus Area it is imperative that the area of options are correct on the ground in case of inspection for both BPS and ELS/HLS.

Entitlement Transfer Deadline – the deadline to transfer entitlements within the Single Payment Scheme is 19th October 2014.   If you intend to buy or sell entitlements it is important that you register your interest as soon as possible in order that we can arrange to try and meet your requirements.   The value of entitlements is likely to be volatile according to supply and demand, and as the deadline date draws nearer.