Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): information for farmers, landowners and rural businesses

The latest information for farmers, landowners and rural businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read this page for regular updates.

Check this page regularly for updates on the contingency arrangements we’re making to support our customers.

Latest news

29 May 2020

Farm visits and inspections

We are planning a phased return to on-farm visits and site inspections. These will begin next week (week commencing 1 June) and will be based on business priority, starting with Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship inspections.

To ensure we work within the regulations arising from COVID-19, we will adopt a revised approach to inspections, including the use of technology and remote inspections. We will also contact customers before a visit to find out if there are any issues we need to be aware of, including vulnerability, and we will follow social distancing rules at all times.

Further advice and guidance is also available from Natural England and the Forestry Commission.

15 May 2020 update

Receipts for Environmental Stewardship (ES) claims

We will acknowledge receipt of ES claims differently this year. You may receive an email or a letter depending on the contact information we have for you. This is a change from previous years where we confirmed receipt by returning the slip from the front of your claim form.

Be aware of fraud, particularly if you have concerns about any correspondence you receive.

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

On 11 May, the government published updated guidance setting out its plan to return life to as near normal as possible.

RPA continues to work closely with Natural England and the Forestry Commission. We will continue to provide any updates to our service while maintaining vital services and ensuring the safety of our staff and customers.

Staying safe outside your home - follow these principles to ensure that time spent outside your home is as safe as possible.

Construction and other outdoor work - guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.

Vehicles – guidance for people who work in or from vehicles.

Factories, plants and warehouses – guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.

6 May 2020 update

New funding to support dairy farmers through coronavirus (COVID-19)

Defra has announced a new fund to support dairy farmers with the challenges of coronavirus (COVID-19). We are working closely with Defra on the details of the scheme, and will provide further updates in due course.

How to submit applications, claims, and documents - update

There may be disruption to Royal Mail’s service in some areas of the country due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Read about the different ways of sending applications, claims, and documents to us and using external shared drives.

5 May 2020 update

Submit your RLE1 form by email

An updated version of the RLE1 form is available on GOV.UK. You can choose to complete the form electronically and return it to us by email. Read more information about how to submit an RLE1 form.

27 April 2020 update

2020 claim deadline extended to 15 June 2020

The government has confirmed that the deadline for 2020 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications, Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue claims, Environmental Stewardship (ES) claims, and woodland legacy revenue claims, without penalty, is extended by one month to midnight on 15 June 2020, in recognition of the disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19).

The period for making amendments without penalty is extended to midnight on 30 June 2020.

The final deadline, with penalty, is extended to midnight on 10 July 2020.

The deadlines for submitting CS applications are unchanged. Applications to CS Higher Tier and CS Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant close on 1 May.

Organic certificates

Who we will contact about BPS and CS

Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) - Growth Programme

British Cattle Movement Service: requesting cattle passport amendments.

Farm advice support for Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier applicants

Support for the farming community

What you need to do

We’re committed to maintaining vital services for our customers, and have made changes to adapt to the current emergency situation.

In line with government coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance, we have closed the majority of our offices, and equipped our processing and helpline teams to carry on their important work from home. We are all fully focused on making vital payments to the rural community and helping customers submit their claims and applications.

To make sure you follow the government advice on social distancing, please do not visit or hand in any correspondence or supporting documents to any of our local offices.

You can continue to post correspondence or supporting documents but only to those offices listed below.

To make sure your documents get to us follow the advice below. We will continue to keep you up to date with any changes.

Support for the farming community

We work in partnership with Farming Help organisations to support their work to help the farming community through challenging times. If this affects you, please either contact them on 03000 111 999, visit their Farming Help website or call us on 03000 200 301.

How to submit your applications, claims, evidence and other supporting documents

See at a glance the different ways to submit applications, claims and documents to us.

The Rural Payments service is available and you should use this wherever possible.

It’s the quickest and most secure way for you to send your applications, claims and supporting documents to us, and it will help us to start processing your application or claim as quickly as possible.

Where there is no option to use the Rural Payments service or you are unable to access the online service, you currently have 2 options.

Option 1: use email

You can email us at ruralpayments@defra.gov.uk where the guidance confirms there is an existing email service. We recommend you use this.

When you email us make sure you include the name of the scheme in the subject heading, for example ‘Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier query’. This will help your email get to the right department quickly.

Remember, we can only accept emails from email addresses that are registered in the Rural Payments service.

It’s important (especially in these challenging times) that we have your most up-to-date personal and business contact details. We may contact you by email or telephone, so check your details in the Rural Payments service, and update them or register if necessary.

Also, please make sure your permission levels for CS and BPS are set and are correct. You can find more information about how to do this in our blog.

It’s a good idea to regularly check your spam or junk email folder so you don’t miss important emails that we’ve sent to you. And, read our Be aware of fraud section as we are aware of coronavirus (COVID-19) related scams.

We cannot accept supporting documents and evidence that we need to access from links to an external shared drive facility, for example Dropbox or Google Drive.

Option 2: use post

If there’s no existing email service and you would normally post something to us, you should continue to use the post.

However, we understand that the Royal Mail has indicated that it’s likely some areas of the country will experience some level of disruption due to coronavirus(COVID-19) related absences at local mail centres or delivery offices. If you need to post documents to us, we would encourage you to do so as soon as you can.

If you’re unable to get online or post a paper application form, paper claim form, or supporting documents to us before the application or claim deadlines, please call our helpline on 03000 200 301.

In line with government COVID-19 guidance, drop-in centres will not be available this year for handing in any correspondence and supporting documents.

Where the person with the correct permissions is not able to sign any forms, due to coronavirus (COVID-19) related issues, this can be done by someone else and a note advising us of this is clearly shown either on the front of the document or next to the signature box. We will verify the signature before making any payments to you.

Drop-in centres

As we’re unable to open any drop-in centres this year, please do not bring any documents to our offices (even if they are listed as accepting postal deliveries). We’re unable to accept correspondence or documents in person.

RLE1 form

You can use the Rural Payments service to transfer BPS entitlements to someone else, transfer land to someone else, and remove land from your holding. This is the quickest and best way to tell us about changes. Or you can add land by email.

If you need to submit an RLE1 form to us, you can now do this electronically, by email, to tell us about entitlement transfers, land transfers and land changes.

You can download an RLE1 form, complete it electronically following the RLE1 guidance, and return it to us as a PDF email attachment.

If you are unable to get online or email it to us, you can print an RLE1 form, complete it by hand, and post it to us.

Organic certificates

We understand that organic certification bodies are making arrangements to issue certification and conversion documents where they are unable to make site visits.

We will accept all such documents in whatever format the organic body issues them in, where it’s necessary to support BPS and CS applications, and CS and ES claims.

Please email a copy of any certificates to us at ruralpayments@defra.gov.uk.

If you’re unable to get online, you can post a copy to us.

Updates on rural payments, grants and services

Basic Payment Scheme

The deadline for submitting applications for BPS 2020 is extended to midnight on 15 June 2020.

You should apply online using the Rural Payments service as this is the quickest and safest method to use. However, you will need to post any supporting documents to us, such as the Young and new farmer form or BP5 continuation form.

If you cannot get online, you can post a paper application form (BP5) and supporting documents – such as a Young and new farmer form, or continuation form - to us as we are currently able to accept them by post.

If you’re unable to get online or post a paper application form or supporting documents to us before the application deadline, please call our helpline on 03000 200 301.

We’re not able to offer an email route to return BP5 forms or supporting documents to us. Please continue to post these to us.

Countryside Stewardship

Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier applications

Initial applications are now closed.

If your initial application is successful, Natural England advisers and Forestry Commission woodland officers are aiming to continue providing technical advice to help you develop your final application.

We’re looking at other ways in which we can continue to provide support and advice remotely on Higher Tier applications (and on SSSI approvals) over this period.

Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier applications

The deadline for requesting an application pack online using the Rural Payments service is 30 June 2020. If you can’t get online, you must call us by 31 May 2020 to request an application pack.

The deadline to submit your application remains as midnight on 31 July 2020.

Farm advice support for CS Mid-Tier applicants

During the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, an off-farm advice programme is available where applicants can contact an adviser and book a clinic session.

Countryside Stewardship Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant

Applications have now closed.

Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue claims

The deadline for submitting CS annual revenue claims is extended to midnight on 15 June 2020.

You should apply online using the Rural Payments service as this is the quickest and safest method to use.

If you cannot get online to use the Rural Payments service, you can download a Countryside Stewardship revenue claim form. Then, either email your form and supporting documents to us at ruralpayments@defra.gov.uk or post your form and any supporting documents to us.

If you are unable to get online or post your claim form to us before the application deadline, please call us on 0300 200 301 and choose the option to request a pre-populated claim form.

Countryside Stewardship capital claims

If you have problems collecting all the evidence for your capital claim due to coronavirus (COVID-19) illness or restrictions, please do all you can to submit your claim, making it clear that your evidence is missing due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Please continue to collect the evidence as soon as you are able to do so, and keep hold of it as we’ll ask for it at a later date.

Environmental Stewardship

The deadline for submitting ES annual revenue claims is extended to midnight on 15 June 2020. You should submit your claim form to us by email, if possible, as this is the quickest and safest way for it to reach us.

Woodland grants

The deadline for submitting woodland legacy revenue claims is extended to midnight on 15 June 2020.

Countryside Productivity Small Grant scheme – round 2

The deadline for submitting claims has been extended by 2 months to 31 July 2020. If you have yet to submit your claim, we have emailed you about this change. You should submit your claim as soon as you are able to do so.

Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) - Growth Programme

Read Questions and Answers on coronavirus (COVID-19) Response for the most common questions about arrangements for delivering existing RDPE Growth programme projects and for applications under the Round 3 call.

British Cattle Movement Service: requesting cattle passport amendments

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, temporary changes have been made to how cattle keepers request amendments to cattle passports.

Read about how to request amendments to cattle passports during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Farming Recovery Fund

Read updated information about how to apply for a grant from the Farming Recovery Fund.

Who we will contact

We want to reach as many customers as possible during these challenging times. Therefore, we are sending reminders to more of our BPS and CS contacts we hold in the Rural Payment service who have ‘submit’ or ‘full’ permissions.

  • Customers or their agents must hold ‘submit’ and ‘full’ business permissions
  • An agent with ‘full’ business or ‘submit’ permissions supersedes a customer with ‘full’ or ‘submit’ business permissions
  • If multiple agents have ‘submit’ or ‘full’ permissions, the agent with ‘full’ business permission supersedes those with ‘submit’
  • If multiple agents have ‘full business’ permissions, they all receive any communications
  • If there is no agent with ‘full’ business permission, but there are multiple agents with ‘submit’ permissions, they will all receive any communications
  • All agents must have an email address registered in the Rural Payments service
  • If no agents fit the above criteria, the same criteria will be used against the remaining people with permissions.

You need to be certain that any correspondence or contact you receive from us is genuine as there are coronavirus (COVID-19) related scams from people claiming to be from other government departments. Please read the Be aware of fraud section below, which will help you to protect yourself.

Postal addresses

Where there is no email option available, use the following addresses for anything urgent

Countryside Stewardship customers

Rural Payments Agency
PO Box 324
Worksop
S95 1DF

Basic Payment Scheme customers and all RLE1 forms

Rural Payments Agency
PO Box 352
Worksop
S80 9FG

Environmental Stewardship (ES) customers

You can find details of address on the environmental stewardship page.

BCMS customers

Rural Payments Agency
British Cattle Movement Service
Curwen Road
Workington
Cumbria
CA14 2DD

How to keep up to date

We’re continuing to monitor and review our processes based on government advice and will update our customers if things change.

You can sign up to get email alerts when information changes on the Rural Payments Agency pages.

You can also follow us on:

Be aware of fraud

In these challenging times, fraudsters will try to take advantage. We are aware of coronavirus (COVID-19) related scams from people claiming to be from other government departments, and we want to remind you to remain vigilant.

We will not call you or send you emails or texts asking you to confirm your personal details or payment information.

  • Never discuss your bank account details with someone you do not know
  • We will not ask you to make a payment over the phone
  • Delete any emails or texts you do not believe are genuine
  • Do not open any links unless from our main email addresses:
    • ruralpayments@defra.gov.uk
    • rpa@notifications.service.gov.uk
    • ruralpayments@rpa.emails.com
    • rdpenetwork@defra.gov.uk
  • Be cautious about what information you share externally, particularly on social media

If you suspect an attempted fraud or feel you have been the subject of fraud, you can contact:

  • RPA’s Fraud Referral Team on 0800 347 347 or FraudInConfidence@rpa.gov.uk
  • Action Fraud (the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime) on 0300 123 2040
Published 1 April 2020
Last updated 29 May 2020 + show all updates
  1. Update to Latest News with farm visits and inspections starting week commencing 1 June.

  2. Information added: Receipt for ES revenue claims; working safely during coronavirus outbreak.

  3. Link provided to Defra's press release about Dairy support fund; link provided to a new GOV.UK page 'Rural payments: how to submit applications, claims, supporting evidence and documents'; and update to using postal services and external shared drives.

  4. Updated RLE1 information with details about an electronic RLE1 form.

  5. Update includes: extension to BPS application deadline, CS/ES revenue claim deadline, and legacy woodland claim deadline; information about organic certificates; farm visits and inspections; farm advice support for CS MT applicants; details of Farming Help support; details of who we will contact during the outbreak for sending BPS and CS reminders; links to RDPE Growth programme and BCMS temporary changes to requesting cattle passport amendments.

  6. Latest news updated with information about applications and claims for 2020, and how to submit applications, claims, evidence and other supporting documents.

  7. First published.