FARMING groups have welcomed the news that the application windows for farm support schemes have been extended.

The Rural Payments Agency has extended the deadline for applications to the Basic Payment Scheme and to make a claim for Countryside Stewardship, Environmental Stewardship and woodland legacy revenue payments by one month until June 15, because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Farmers and land managers will now have until this date to submit their applications without penalty.

The NFU has been urging the RPA to provide maximum flexibility over payments amidst the coronavirus crisis and discussions on the challenges the industry is facing because of Covid-19.

NFU vice-president Tom Bradshaw said: “I am pleased to see the RPA has acted on our case for being as flexible as possible during the current pandemic and planning ahead to ensure farmers can submit applications and avoid penalties for late applications but at the same time, I am concerned about the impact extending the claim form deadline could have on the processing of payments.

“The next step will be for the RPA to find a mechanism to ensure timely 2020 payments and that this extension does not result in delays. I encourage everyone who is still able to submit claim forms by the original deadline of May 15 to do so at the earliest opportunity to reduce processing delays.

"The NFU has already urged the RPA for timely BPS and agri-environment payments to be delivered as early as possible in December this year in light of the issues posed by Covid-19 and the extreme autumn and winter weather.

"It is imperative that farmers’ expectations are met and the new claim form deadline does not prevent the RPA from delivering payments in a timely manner to avoid further unnecessary cashflow pressure.”

CLA Director North Dorothy Fairburn said: “The CLA welcomes this extension particularly due to the current pandemic, and because the original deadline coincided with a very busy time in the farming season. The extension acts as a safety blanket for farmers unable to contact their agents or access the RPA’s advisers.

“Despite the extended deadline, we would still encourage farmers to submit their claims electronically by the original deadline of May 15 as it would assist the RPA in making their payments by the end of this year.”

Applications for new CS Higher Tier and Mid Tier agreements are still being accepted ahead of their respective deadlines of May 1 and July 31 this year.

All applicants can check and update personal and business information and apply or claim through the Rural Payments Service, where farmers and their agents can also view and transfer their entitlements and land parcels.