COUNTY farmers in Entry Level Stewardship Schemes are being urged to check when they signed into it – as it could have an impact on future Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims.

While some greening issues for the BPS have yet to be clarified by Defra, and double funding claims will not be allowed, there appear to be two key exceptions.

These are ELS agreements starting before January 1 2012 and all HLS agreements – including the underpinning ELS.

Balfours property professionals farm business adviser, Jon Birchall, said: “Bizarrely therefore, double funding will be allowed for a large number of ELS agreement holders. That means it will be possible for agreement holders to use hedges and margins or other eligible criteria to count both towards ELS/HLS and to Ecological Focus Areas.

“As most ELS agreements were signed before January 2012, this is a significant advantage which is likely to benefit the majority of ELS agreement holders. This seems in direct contravention of the double funding principle, but apparently there are some legislative quirks that mean that this is possible.”

According to Jon, it will be some weeks before the final details of BPS will be revealed as Defra is not allowed to make announcements until after the European elections.

Jon added: “While we are unlikely to receive final details until early June at the earliest, I would urge farmers to be hatching a plan of how to crop most effectively and take professional advice."

Jon can be contacted by calling 07450 406734 or emailing