East Anglian farmers are lagging behind with online payment registrations

A farmer ploughing his field at Bayfield.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A farmer ploughing his field at Bayfield.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

East Anglian farmers are being offered extra help with a new subsidy payment scheme, after figures revealed the region is lagging behind with its online registrations.

Since the launch of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in January, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) said more than 50pc of eligible farming businesses in England had registered.

However, the need for extra support to help farmers with their online registrations has been identified as 'urgent' in parts of East Anglia.

Over 600 paper applications were made by farmers for the previous payment scheme in Norfolk in 2014, but this year only 17pc of these have registered for the BPS.

RPA customer director Justin Chamberlain said farmers who need support to make a BPS claim can get help from a local farming or specialist organisation operating in their area.

He said: 'The new Rural Payments online service is the only way to claim your money this year so you need to make sure you register.

'This applies to everyone who wants to make a claim, including those previously registered for the former Single Payment Scheme, and we urge you to do it as soon as possible to give yourself time to complete it.

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'We know that some people will need help applying online and we have put in place a range of ways to help them including by telephone, through farming and specialist IT organisations and local support centres.'

Clarke Willis, chief executive of Norfolk-based agricultural buying group Anglia Farmers, said: 'We know that not everyone is computer savvy when it comes to getting to grips with the new Basic Payment Scheme. We are offering extra help to farmers so that they can get online, learn more about the new service and how to use it.'

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) is arranging a series of meetings to help its members get to grips with the digital application process before the BPS deadline of May 15.

The meetings include two on March 5, at Barnham Broom Hotel, near Norwich, from 9.30am and at Cedars Hotel in Stowmarket from 1.30pm. Farmers can book their place by contacting meetingsea@nfu.org.uk or 01638 672100.

NFU Norfolk county Adviser John Newton said: 'The latest figures show that more than 60pc of eligible farmers have registered online in East Anglia but that still leaves a sizeable minority who have yet to go through the process.

'We would urge farmers to take advantage of the extra help available to ensure they register online and submit their claim accurately and in good time.

'The Rural Payments Agency has also set up regional support centres to assist farmers who are struggling to register, including those with poor internet access, and there is a helpline available on 03000 200 301.'

For help with BPS applications, farmers can contact the RPA helpline on 03000 200 301 or visit www.gov.uk/ruralpayments.