The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Defra, is enduring a series of embarrassing headlines after its £154 million system to process farmers' EU subsidy payments has been largely abandoned following a number of problems with its online interface.
The system will be re-launched next week with farmers being asked to submit Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims on paper forms. The data will then be inputted manually onto the system, though the government is asking farmers to register for the online service before submitting their claims manually.
As the deadline for making BPS claims approaches, the European Commission has extended the due date by one month.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme, Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of Defra's Rural Payments Agency (RPA), said the decision had been made "having listened intently" to farmers. Farmers Weekly reported that "farmers, landowners and agents in England were 'very concerned' about the slowness and complexity of the online BPS mapping tool."
As of Thursday, 74,000 farm businesses in England had registered for the service – equivalent to 84% of eligible businesses. The RPA is trying to reach the 12,000 – 14,000 businesses that have not yet registered, according to Farmers Weekly.