In order to claim under the Basic Payment Scheme an application must be submitted by the 15th May of the scheme year. Some of the main rules in respect to this scheme are summarised below:

Active Farmers 

England has now removed the Active Farmer rule for BPS 2018 onwards. There is no negative list of activities and no requirement for supporting evidence.

The declaration will still be present on the online system however all applicants will answer the first question with “No – I qualify as a Active Farmer”.

Land ‘at your disposal’

To apply for BPS you must have at least 5 hectares of eligible land ‘at your disposal’ on 15th May of the current scheme year. If inspected you may need to provide evidence that that the land is ‘at your disposal’, e.g. a written tenancy agreement. For more information click here.

The land must be eligible for the whole of the calendar year.

All of your agricultural land (arable, permanent grassland & permanent crops) and any land in RDPE schemes must be declared on your application and mapped correctly online.

Ineligible features

The area of certain features must be deducted from the eligible area. The full list is in the BPS guidance and must be consulted to ensure your application is not negatively affected.


If you declare fewer hectares of eligible land on your BPS application than you have entitlements, those excess entitlements will not be activated. The ‘two year usage rule’, the requirement to activate all of your entitlements in a single application once every 2 years no longer applies since the 2021 claim year.

Entitlements are able to be transferred by sale/gift or lease to ‘active farmers’ using the online system. The deadline for transfers is the 15th May. Although the Active Farmer rule no longer applies, receipts of entitlements must tick the Active Farmer declaration: “No – I am an Active Farmer”, to receive transferred entitlements.


DEFRA have confirmed that from the 2021 scheme year, all 3 of the greening requirements: crop diversification, Ecological Focus Areas and the permanent grassland rules from BPS will not apply.

‘New’ and ‘Young’ farmers

From 2021 ‘New’ and ‘young’ farmers may no longer apply for BPS entitlements from the national reserve. Existing claimants will still receive the top-up payment whilst they qualify.

New farmers must be at least 18 years of age, must be in ‘control’ (have more than 50% of the shares and votes) of the farm business, their business must have started ‘agricultural activity’ in 2013 or later and they mustn’t have carried out any farming in the previous 5 years in their own right.

New farmers must make their first successful BPS application within 2 years of the calendar year in which the business started farming.

Young farmers must be between the age of 18 and 40, must be in ‘control’ of the farm business and must have set up or taken ‘control’ of the business for the first time on 1st January 2010 or later.

In order to prove one’s status as a ‘new’ or ‘young’ farmer evidence of the above must be checked by an independent solicitor who must fill in a ‘certification form’ which must be received by the RPA by 15th May.

The top up payment is worth up to 17.5% of the average value of their entitlements on up to 90 hectares. This can be applied for each year for a maximum of 5 years after the year they started or took ‘control’ of the business.

Basic Payment Scheme – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

For information about the Basic Payment Scheme in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland please contact Alasdair Squires by email here.