Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
The European Commission (EC) is thought likely to provide Member States with an option to extend to the deadline for submission of the Single Application Form (SAF) from 15 May up to the 15 June 2015. The SAF is used by farmers to claim their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and land based rural development payments.
I am very aware of the importance of cash flow for farmers and therefore I am minded not to take up the option to extend the deadline as it will delay the start of part payments to all claimants. As a result, I have decided the SAF deadline in Wales will stay at 15 May 2015.
In Wales, the RPW Online application process is working very well and has been available since 27 February. Feedback from the industry is very positive and farming unions have been encouraging the use of the online service. Over 1,400 SAFs had been submitted by 31 March, more than twice as many as were received by the same time last year.
If there were to be a delay to the receipt of SAFs, it would inevitably have knock-on impacts to part payments under the BPS and to payments on existing land-based rural development schemes. As the funding for the Rural Development Programme 2007 - 2013 ends on 31 December 2015, any funding not utilised by this deadline would have to be handed back to the European Commission and lost to Wales. Any outstanding payments would then need to be funded from the new Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020 thereby reducing the fund for new projects.
The SAFs will take longer to complete this year compared to previous years given this is the first year of the new scheme. Therefore I would urge all farmers to complete and submit their SAF as soon as they can, and certainly in advance of the 15 May, this year to avoid late penalties or being out of time to apply for entitlements in this critical year.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.