UK – Help is at hand for producers worried about the new electronic system for Common Agricultural Policy requirements, farming minister George Eustice told the National Sheep Association Event today.
A government support initiative will assist farmers with difficulties in completing forms due to limited computing equipment, skills or internet connectivity.
Mr Eustice said that Rural Payments Agency staff will work in Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs regional sites around the country where demand for assistance is anticipated.
Services will extend to filling out forms with farmers if they are unable to do so at home, although this is to be a 'last resort'.
"We don't want to be filling out every form," said Mr Eustice.
He explained that certain parts of the farm, such as coefficients for hedges and details for pea growers, in particular warranted a computerised system, dismissing drawing diagrams and colouring maps with crayons as a ‘pie in the sky approach’.
“Telephone support lines will be part of our assisted digital package to help with queries,” he added.
“Rural Payments Agency staff will be sent out to Defra buildings in areas where demand is anticipated.”
Areas tipped to need close help are those with limited connectivity, which tend be areas with high concentrations of sheep flocks, such as Cumberland, he added.
The practicalities of the application system are currently being ‘tested to destruction’ in order to make sure systems are optimal when the websites go live in the new year.
After having been involved in trialling the system, Mr Eustice reassured it was ‘fairly logical and user friendly’.
He added: “I am keeping a close eye on this project as it is important. I am really impressed in the management and organisation of the RPA and the payments.”