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09/06/15 09:39

SAF deadline approaches

Weekend office support announced in final week of single application form window.

More support will be available for farmers and crofters filling in their Single Application Form (SAF) during the final weekend of the application window, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has announced.

With less than one week to go until the deadline of midnight on Monday June 15, farmers and crofters are being urged not to leave it until the last minute to submit their SAF or to register for Rural Payments and Services – which is required to receive Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.

As of Tuesday June 9, 2015, 14,726 forms have been submitted: around two thirds of the total number expected. This compares to 53 per cent of applications submitted with one week to go last year.

On a visit to the local RPID area office in Elgin, Mr Lochhead confirmed that area offices will be providing additional telephone support for farmers and crofters between 10am and 3pm next Saturday and Sunday (June 13 and 14), as well as normal working hours between now and the SAF deadline. The announcement comes after the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs Committee recommended more telephone support for farmers in the remaining application period.

In addition:

  • Paper forms continue to be available from area offices for those who prefer to apply that way or who have been having difficulties using the new Rural Payments and Services online system. This includes pre-populated forms, which have been available to everyone on request since June 1, 2015.
  • All the guidance farmers, crofters and agents need to fill in their SAF is available from the Rural Payments and Services website.
  • The Scottish Government has been working around the clock to iron out problems with the Rural Payments and Services online application process, with updates at the beginning of May resulting in performance improvements. A further set of improvements are due to be made in the routine maintenance slot on Tuesday evening.
  • Some applicants have been asked to re-check the information they have submitted - and the Scottish Government has stated its full intention to use force majeure provisions in the EU regulations to ensure farmers and crofters are not disadvantaged by problems out-with their control.
  • It is possible to make and save an unlimited number of amendments to draft online SAFs. After the forms have been submitted, either online or on paper, all applicants can request amendments by contacting their local RPID area office.
  • Farmers who are eligible for funding through the National Reserve are reminded that they must apply before June 15, 2015 to avoid being excluded from Direct Payments under the new CAP. This includes not only farmers who will receive their Basic Payment entitlements via the National Reserve, but also farmers who will receive entitlements automatically and wish to have them topped up to the regional average via the National Reserve. Anyone who is unsure about their eligibility to apply for a National Reserve award should contact their local RPID area office as soon as possible to discuss their individual situation.
  • Mapping updates are being halted until after the 15 June SAF deadline, as requested by the Scottish Parliaments RACCE Committee, except where they were requested by farmers themselves.
  • As announced by Dr McLeod in Parliament last week, farmers and crofters are being given extra time to submit documentation in support of Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) applications. The deadline for making AECS applications is June 12, 2015, but local area offices will accept supporting documentation, such as the farm environment assessments, until June 30. About 350 of the highest environmental priority AECS contracts have already been extended.

The Cabinet Secretary said:

“We are approaching the final weekend before the SAF deadline and are on track to get all applications in on time in this first year of the new CAP, where we are dealing with a new application process and a much more complicated policy.

“As well as providing personal support for users who encounter difficulties, Scotland – like 15 other EU Member States - has extended the SAF deadline because of the complexity of the new system.

“We know that the days leading up to the closure of the SAF window are traditionally the busiest – with almost half of last year’s SAFs submitted in the final week before the deadline.

“Although we are ahead of that tally this year, farmers and crofters should not leave it until the last minute to get their forms in.

“To help with this, I can confirm today that all local area offices will be open to receive telephone queries between 10am and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, in addition to normal opening hours between now and the SAF deadline at midnight on Monday. The Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs Committee and others have urged us to deliver as much support as we can for farmers to ensure they submit their forms by the deadline and that's why we are providing additional support at local offices for the final weekend.

“I appreciate the forbearance of farmers and agents who have been experiencing issues with the Rural Payments and Services online application system, which the Scottish Government has been working flat out to sort.

“Under EU rules, it is the applicant’s responsibility to follow the scheme requirements but there are provisions to ensure they are not disadvantaged by issues out-with their control and where they are not at fault – including failures in a paying agency’s systems.

“These provisions have been used in Scotland before and I fully intend to use them again this year where appropriate.”

Scotland’s Chief Agricultural Officer David Barnes added:

“With less than a week to go until the SAF deadline, farmers and crofters should register for Rural Payments and Services and get their applications in as soon as they can. We have a new, more complex policy this year as well as the new online system and so filling in the SAF may take longer than in previous years. And of course, this year’s SAF will determine not just this year’s payments, but farmers’ eligibility for entitlements which will cover the whole of the new CAP.

"Ensuring the Rural Payments and Services website continues to perform, and helping customers get their SAFs in are the top priorities for my team this week which is why we hope the extended customer support will be helpful. The vast majority of our queries come in by phone and we hope it will help customers if they can phone in over the weekend rather than having to wait until Monday morning. There will also be appropriate back-up cover in the Edinburgh headquarters should it be required . That said, we would of course encourage our customers to help themselves by not leaving it till the final few days before starting something as important as filling in their SAF.

“If you need any help with your SAF, or encounter any issues, please seek support from your local area office in the first instance.”

Notes to editors

The SAF window in Scotland this year has been extended by one month and will close on June 15, 2015.

As of June 9, 2015 a total of 14,726 SAFs have been submitted, 9,576 online and 5,150 on paper.

As of June 9, 2015 a total of 21,643 of farmers and crofters have registered to use Rural Payments and Services, which is required to receive CAP payments. Register online or book an appointment and ask your local RPID staff for help.

The Scottish Government received a total of 21,730 SAFs between March 15, 2014 and May 15, 2014. Of those, 13,559 (62 per cent) were online and 8,171 (38 per cent) were on paper. In 2014, 22 per cent of SAFs were submitted with three weeks to go, 33 per cent with two weeks to go and 53 per cent were submitted with one week to go until the deadline.

The National Reserve funds the allocation of entitlements for new entrants, young farmers and tops-up the entitlement values of farmers who were frozen out under the old CAP. Successful applicants will receive payment entitlements at the regional average value.

Those who can receive funding through the National Reserve are:

  • New Entrants – farmers who started an agricultural activity in 2013 or later, who have not had any agricultural activity in their own name or at their own risk in the five years before the start of their current farming action.
  • Young Farmers – farmers who are no older than 40 years of age on 31 December on the year they apply for an award, and who are setting up for the first time as head of the holding.
  • Force Majeure or Exceptional Circumstance – farmers who experienced a force majeure/exceptional circumstance event which has affected the potential value of their payment entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme.
  • Specific Disadvantage – farmers who were allocated ‘National Reserve’ type entitlements in 2005 as a result of an application under the ‘New Entrant’ or ‘Investor’ categories of the 2005 National Reserve or farmers who did not receive an automatic allocation of payment entitlements in 2005, this includes businesses that have purchased entitlements in any year from 2006 and still held these in 2014.
  • Businesses submitting a Single Application Form (SAF) in 2015, that were eligible to receive a payment under the Single Farm Payment scheme or the Scottish Beef Scheme in 2013, will receive an automatic allocation of entitlements. However, they will also need to submit an Allocation of Entitlements form if they also wish to apply for a top-up to their entitlement value through the National Reserve or have entered into a Private Contract Clause agreement.