AS farmers in Wales start to receive their Single Application Form packs through the post, the FUW is advising them to give the Rural Payments Wales (RPW) online system a try if they are in a position to do so.
Speaking days after Defra pulled the plug on the English online application process due to severe technical problems, FUW president Emyr Jones described the RPW online single application system as working exceptionally well under the circumstances.
“Obviously the online system is not for everyone, and there is still a lamentable lack of broadband availability in some areas, but we would advise all those who are in a position to use the system to do so.
“As is inevitable, there have been some teething problems with RPW online, but on the whole it is working exceptionally well, and the bulk of problems are due to the complexity of the underlying EU regulations rather than the system itself,” said Mr Jones. Mr Jones said that using the online system actually made it easier to deal with those complex EU regulations, as important calculations were performed automatically when the system was used.
“The online system also reduces the risk of costly errors, for example by issuing automatic warnings – something which is not possible with a paper form,” added Mr Jones. He further added that FUW staff had identified a number of issues with the online system and that the union was in constant communication with Welsh government staff in order to try and resolve these.
However, he described those issues as “minor” in the grander scale of things compared with the risks of making errors on the paper form. Mr Jones also highlighted the hard work FUW staff were undertaking in order to assist members with their online applications.
“Our staff have been working exceptionally hard on members’ SAFs for a number of weeks, and we are indebted to them for this,” he said. With regard to the possibility of extending the May 15 SAF deadline by a month – a concession already awarded in a number of regions, including England – Mr Jones said the FUW was in ongoing discussions with government and would be raising the issue in a meeting with deputy farming and food minister Rebecca Evans over the coming days.
“Given the complexity of the forms and pressures on the industry at this time, we certainly feel it would be pragmatic to extend the SAF deadline, but this has to be weighed up against the impact of delaying form processing by a month and the effect this could have on cash flow from December onwards if payments are delayed as a consequence.
“The bottom line is that, where possible, farmers should try and get the forms done as soon as possible, but given the busy time of year and the complexity of the forms that is easier said than done,” added Mr Jones.